Levels of greenhouse gases reach record high

Updated: 2013-01-15 07:45

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

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Industrialization, urbanization blamed for rise in emissions

Levels of greenhouse gases in China's atmosphere hit a record high in 2011 because of the rising effect of human activities, authorities have revealed.

The annual China Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, released by the China Meteorological Administration on Monday, said carbon dioxide levels measured 392.2 parts per million (ppm) at Waliguan station in Qinghai province, the highest since the station began operation in 1990.

Levels of greenhouse gases reach record high

Students exercise indoors at a primary school in Jinan, Shandong province, on Monday. The heavy smog that recently descended on the city forced school authorities to move exercises that are usually conducted outdoors, inside. Zheng Tao / for China Daily

The World Meteorological Organization global atmospheric background station is one of 28 nationwide.

The average carbon dioxide level in 1990 was less than 350 ppm, according to Zhou Lingxi, a professor of atmosphere composition at the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences.

The WMO's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, released in November, estimated that carbon dioxide accounts for 85 percent of radiative forcing, defined by scientists as the difference between radiant energy received by the Earth and energy radiated back to space, which causes global temperature rises.

"Fast industrialization and urbanization have led to a sharp increase in carbon dioxide, and releasing a greenhouse gas report every year is helpful for policymakers in adjusting economic development plans," Zhou said.

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and halogenated greenhouse gases are also covered in the China Meteorological Administration report, which found that many had reached record levels.

If the world tries to control the global average temperature rise within 2 C, scientists estimate that carbon dioxide levels should be no more than 450 ppm.

The record-high levels of greenhouse gases have caused concern among some climate experts about the country's current economic modes: fast industrialization and modernization.

"The problem is not the shocking numbers, but how to deal with them after we know," said Li Shuo, a climate and energy expert at Greenpeace, adding that greenhouse gas is a global issue, not a regional one.

"There is a really big gap between the benchmark that science indicates nature can bear and the increasing demand required by economic development," Li said.

The WMO estimated that 375 billion metric tons of carbon has been released into the atmosphere since 1750, about half of which still exists in the atmosphere.

Labeled as one of the world's largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, China is making great efforts to cut emissions, said Qi Ye, director of the Climate Policy Initiative at Tsinghua University.

The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) aims to reduce the amount of carbon emitted per unit of gross domestic product by 17 percent by 2015, compared with 2010 levels.

"China is adjusting its energy structure by using more clean energy," Qi said.

According to the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, China's electricity generated by clean energy reached 74.8 billion kilowatt hours in November, with a year-on-year increase of 20.3 percent.