Tag Archives: China

We no longer need the Cop circus – technology and markets are already solving the climate crisis

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Whether the world cuts carbon emissions fast enough to secure a 1.5-degree planet depends on the arms race for clean-tech dominance between the US and China.

It does not depend significantly on anything done, and even less said, at the Cop28 summit in Dubai, a process that risks becoming a net negative for progress, if it has not already crossed that line as a full army corps of lobbyists converge with 97,000 others at petroleum ground zero, says The Telegraph.

The annual Cop gathering is itself a fossilised racket, an anachronistic showdown between the West and a victim category of “developing countries” that is frozen in time and contains some of the richest and most brazen polluters, or others that still build coal plants and persecute ecologists.

The environmental press corps will anguish over whether the text progresses from a “phase-down” to a “phase-out” of coal power plants, and whether petrostates lift their veto on such language for oil and gas. Passions will fly over a get-out clause for “abated” fossil fuels, and whether carbon capture really counts.

The language matters, and the precise wording can be mobilised for climate lawfare in civil courts, at least in rule of law states. But technology and geo-economic reality are already moving faster than the Cop curriculum can keep up.

“A global, irreversible, solar tipping point may have passed where solar energy gradually comes to dominate global electricity markets, without any further climate policies,” concluded a recent paper by the World Bank and Europe’s leading universities.

The “technological learning rate” of solar, wind, and now batteries is so relentless that a 24/7 mix is already cheaper than new coal in most of the world, and will become massively cheaper almost everywhere over time.

The report said the priority now is to sort out the details, upgrade grids, and channel the necessary funds to Africa. It is also a ferocious indictment of the “energy modelling community” that failed to see this coming.

China is rolling out 210 gigawatts (GW) of solar this year, not far short of the entire installation worldwide the year before. Carbon Brief says it is expanding its solar panel capacity to 1000GW by 2025, and increasing its battery capacity six fold.

This is not the result of altruism. It is happening because China a) wants a cheap and secure source of home-grown power beyond American naval reach, b) has acquired manufacturing dominance of renewables and wishes to leverage the advantage, and c) aims to dethrone the West’s auto industry.

America is responding with $2 trillion of manufacturing rearmament because it a) cannot let this happen, b) still leads in applied sciences, and can win the fight, and c) recognises that clean tech is the economic prize of our time. 

Europe is responding because its industries will be obliterated if it does not. None of this has much to do with the Cop process.

“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable. It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’,” said Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency.

The pace depends on whether vested interests succeed in delaying the rollout of technology that already exists, and whether they can head off investment in new technology at the point of critical breakthrough.

Electric vehicles are already there. Decent EVs retail today in the Chinese mass market for $10,000-15,000 without purchase subsidies. Credible analysts in China think EVs will surpass 50pc of sales within two years.

Europe will catch up as cheaper models flood showrooms circa 2025, albeit nearer $20,000-25,000. This is before the arrival of solid-state batteries and other variants that should triple range before the end of the decade, without the need for cobalt.

The US Energy Department is targeting green hydrogen at $1 a kilo by 2030. Anything from $1.50-2 opens the way for a displacement of fossils in dirty hydrogen, and then for fertilisers, steel, shipping, etc, going down the Liebreich “hydrogen ladder”, covering some 20pc of emissions.

Cell-grown chicken and lab-fermented milk is on the market today in the US, the first of a wave of bioidentical meats and dairy likely to undercut Big Meat on cost within five years, disrupting the industrial-scale market for sausages, burgers, nuggets, and so forth, with a fraction of the water needs and CO2 emissions. 

This will alleviate the strain on croplands used for animal feed. It may enable some reforestation and surplus biofuel for jet travel.

More exotically, nuclear fusion at competitive cost may not be as far away as people think. The Fusion Industry Association says 65pc of its members think commercial fusion power – at viable cost, and the radioactive waste of a hospital – could be a reality by 2035, and 90pc by 2040. They are eyeing costs of $60-80MWh. That would seal the argument.

The Cop process was necessary to kickstart clean technology and bring it to scale. The Paris Agreement in 2015 sent the message that the game was up for the carbon economy. It was the moment when Big Money grew wary of fossil finance. It defected to the other side, discerning larger fortunes to be made in the new industries. 

This pulled forward investment and brought us to where we are today.

The baton has by now passed. With each year the Cop process is more clearly becoming a venue for vested interests – Big Oil, Industrial Meat, Old Auto, you name it – trying to slow down the post-carbon juggernaut.

Sultan Al-Jaber has proved a capable president of Cop28, earning plaudits even from some green activists. He is right that you need “smart decarbonisation” and political “buy-in” from fossil producers and users. What are we going to do about the 2,000 coal-fired plants in Asia built mostly between 2005 and 2018 with a lifespan of 40-45 years that must keep burning to pay off project debt?

But he also presides over Abu Dhabi’s national oil company, which is expanding crude output from three million to five million barrels a day over the next seven years, with emissions to match, and “no credible plan whatsoever to reduce them”, in the words of climateer Al Gore.

Al-Jaber said two weeks ago that there was “no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phaseout of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5”.

He is right. We will still need some oil and gas in 2050. The CO2 will be offset by removal technologies, or captured and sequestered.

Read the full story here here.

COP28: China and India Reject Climate Loss and Damage Demands

From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Everyone agrees the USA should be looted, but China and India want to be recipients of funding, not contributors.

COP28: Should India and China receive or pay climate damage fund?

By Navin Singh Khadka
Environment correspondent, BBC World Service

China is the top emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and India comes at number three.

The two countries also have major economies, so then why is there a disagreement over whether they should contribute to a fund to tackle the damage caused by climate change?

What is the loss and damage fund?

The fund aims to provide financial assistance to poorer nations that have been hit by climate-related disasters – for example, communities displaced by floods or rising sea levels – so that they can rebuild and be rehabilitated.

Who should pay for it?

The US – a developed country and the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world – and other developed nations say China and India should join them in not only making significant cuts in emissions for meaningful global climate action, but also contribute to the fund.

But China and India disagree, arguing their high levels of emissions are a recent development when compared to the historic emissions of developed countries like the US and the UK.

…Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-67610621

This is shaping up to be the funniest COP to date.

The leader of COP28 Sultan Al Jaber appears to want to cash in on last year’s $150 billion investment in more capacity.

Now participants can’t make up their minds who gets to loot who, with intractable disputes about whether India and China should be looters or victims.

I doubt China will budge on their refusal to pay up. China is in the middle of a multi-trillion dollar property and banking crisis which has tanked a third of their economy, problems which are rapidly getting worse thanks to the already deeply indebted Chinese government policy of propping up failed enterprises with public money. China has bigger problems than worrying about looking bad at a climate conference.

India is also in the middle of a Chinese style housing bubble, which could easily burst if fear generated by the Chinese collapses affects consumer confidence in India. While India’s finances are currently buoyant, thanks to Prime Minister Modi’s growth oriented policies, the economic winds in India could change very rapidly in the face of a global slowdown.

I can’t help thinking the only winner from COP28 will be the COP 28 President, Sultan Al Jabber, who will likely find lots of buyers for his nation’s rapidly expanding natural gas capacity.

Mann: “climate deniers are endanging you, your children, and your grandchildren”

From Watts Up With That?

h/t Dr. Willie Soon; So what should be done about these dangerous deniers?

Mann tells his audience climate change deniers are endangering your children, but mostly avoids urging specific action. If a “denier” gets murdered by a climate nut who thinks his act of violence will protect the children, Mann’s hands are clean – he never told the climate nut to pick up a gun.

If I’m calling out Mann for always being at the rear ranks of the angry mob, then I’m not going to emulate his cowardice.

So what do I think should be done about Michael Mann?

The answer is – nothing. Mann’s personal failure is punishment enough. Mann is already mostly an irrelevance. The pinnacle of his political efforts, the COP climate conferences he helped build into a significant global political event, have degenerated into an annual oil and gas sale bazaar run by Arab petro-sultans. Major CO2 emitters like India and China barely even pretend to care about the Western climate obsession, both are openly competing with each other to expand coal powered industrial capacity as rapidly as possible.

Mann’s life’s work is in ruins, and every passing year further hilights his utter failure. He can keep ranting all he wants – outside his audience of climate diehards, Mann’s words simply don’t matter any more.

I don’t feel intimidated by Mann’s climate rants – in my opinion Mann’s wild tweets are entertaining parody. Other than the remote possibility a violent ecolune will take him seriously, reading or watching Mann’s latest rant is like watching an angry hand puppet on the Muppet Show.

Mann will not be remembered as another Einstein or Newton, as one of the science greats. At most Mann will be a historical footnote, someone who made a few wild climate predictions which didn’t come to pass, an uninteresting one liner in a history of science book whom people of the future browse past and rapidly forget.

China To Save The World (Again)–AEP


By Paul Homewood

h/t Doug Brodie/Ian Magness

Everything AEP writes about Net Zero seems to be infused with wishful thinking, no more so than where China is concerned:

China’s carbon emissions have either peaked already or will do this winter, seven years ahead of schedule. They may plateau for a year or two but will then go into exponential decline for mechanical and unstoppable reasons.

The country’s target of net zero by 2060 is likely to be achieved a decade earlier than previously assumed, and perhaps earlier than in Europe.

This is a remarkable turn of events. Xi Jinping has made a giant strategic and economic bet on clean-tech dominance, aiming to corner the world’s renewable market and to break dependency on sea-borne energy supplies running through the US 7th Fleet.

The International Energy Agency says China accounts for 60pc of all new solar and wind power being installed across the world this year and next. This roll-out has combined with a drastic slowdown in China’s rate of economic trend growth and the exhaustion of its Ponzi style property model.

China is building a gargantuan network of ‘clean energy bases’ in the Gobi, Ordos, and Tengger deserts, and further across the arid wastelands of the northwest. Solar and wind parks run along an arc from Inner Mongolia to Qinghai on the Tibetan plateau.


Let’s start with a few simple, basic facts:

As I have been reporting for years, large scale investment in renewable capacity has not been enough to meet increasing demand for electricity in China, which has had to be met with additional coal power. Wind and solar still only accounted for 13% of China’s electricity in 2022, compared to 29% in what he describes as the foot-dragging UK!

China’s economic growth, and therefore energy demand, has slowed in the last two years, not least because of their disastrous lockdown policies. This inevitably means that the need for more coal power is reduced. Whether economic growth remains subdued is moot – so far this year it is up 4.4% year-on-year. And it may well be that the use of coal power does flatten off in the next few years. And it also may well be the case that eventually China will catch up with the UK in terms of the renewables share.

However AEP makes a schoolboy error, assuming that current trends will continue forward in a straight line, until all China’s electricity is supplied by renewables. He clearly still does not realise that neither we or China can run a modern economy on intermittent wind and solar power alone.

He also makes the mistake of ignoring all of the energy China consumes outside of the power sector, which accounts for half of total primary energy. A good indicator is their consumption of oil and gas, which are barely used for power generation. Since 2011, consumption has risen by 71%.

None of this energy can be replaced directly with wind and solar power.

China is of course building lots of EVs, which may help to reduce oil consumption eventually, but this begs the question of where the energy needed to build and run them will come from. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding to assume that this will come from wind and solar, as these are already maxed out on the grid. Any additional demand can only come from dispatchable sources, which basically means coal.

AEP is right about Xi’s concern for energy security, but that is precisely why China will want to maximise its own coal reserves. It is also why they have been strategically developing secure supplies of oil and gas, in particular from Russia and Turkmenistan, from where new pipelines are either being built or planned. China has also been assiduous in building relationships with the Middle East. Imports from Iran, for instance, are 60% higher than pre-sanction peaks in 2017.

Another indicator of China’s addiction to oil is the fact that the country’s oil refining capacity has grown by 40% since 2010, and is now bigger than the US.

AEP relies on Carbon Brief for advice in his article. Given that they are a lobby group set up specifically to campaign for climate action, they are hardly a reliable, objective source! Maybe he should have consulted Climate Tracker, another group keen to push the same agenda, but also determined to report the realities. This is how they sum up China’s climate policies:


As Climate Tracker suggests, China’s emissions may well start to level off by 2030. But there is nothing to suggest that they will actually start to fall drastically thereafter.

China promised to strictly control coal then started 182 coal power plants instead

By Jo Nova

Two and a half years ago President Xi promised to  “strictly control coal-fired power generation projects” in China. Before this solemn pledge the CCP had approved a blockbuster 54 gigawatts of coal fired power plants in just two years. Afterwards, to show how committed they were to Net Zero principles and international agreements, they *only* approved 131 GW. As President Xi promised — he’s “strictly in control”  (of a massive increase). He’s also strictly in control of the world’s manufacturing.

After being deceived, the UN, Greenpeace, and Joe Biden promptly did nothing at all — it’s not like the future of life on Earth is at stake. And John Kerry somehow saw only “agreement” and “hope”.

When faced with this environmental catastrophe, the BBC  told the world about China’s green power surge instead, and only mentioned the coal in passing as an aside. China had spawned a world record in coal plant construction, but apparently these coal plants are not so bad because many are built on renewable parks, “partly as backup for all the new wind and solar farms”. As if CO2 emissions are neutralized just by the presence of the sacred talisman of “renewables”. It’s a religion.

Meanwhile the International Energy Agency (IEA) — a kind of mini UN energy bureaucracy — predicts China’s peak coal will happen next year. Righto.

Apologists, all of them for planet destroying polluters.

Global Energy Monitor

Just for comparison: has one 1,000 MW plant in the “pre -permit” stage. (Collinsville). A whole gigawatt of dreamtime coal plant. It’s so “pre” that even though it was suggested four years ago, and awarded $4m for a feasibility study, no feasibleness has been announced. In the same years, China built about 300 coal plants.

Global Energy Monitor

At least Europe has some nuclear plants.

Global Energy Monitor

Likewise the US:

Global Energy Monitor

All this data on coal plants comes not from overpaid academics, Ministries of Energy, or publicly funded “news” broadcasters. None of them, apparently, give a toss about actual CO2 emissions. Instead, this was done by some NGO’s who are paid to be perplexed but at least they are honest in their confusion.

These people believe propaganda put out by both the UK and by China, and are caught in the headlights, genuinely surprised…

China Pledged to ‘Strictly Control’ Coal. The Opposite Happened.

 Lauri MyllyvirtaByford TsangForeign Policy

The recent about-face on coal is odd for Beijing, which generally under-promises and over-delivers on climate commitments. Controlling new coal power projects is one of the few pledges China has made from now until 2025. Furthermore, more coal power is not necessary to keep the lights on, since China has a booming clean energy sector.

By many measures, China is the front-runner in the global clean technology race. Its renewable energy investments accounted for 55 percent of the global total in 2022. Just two Chinese companies have captured over half of the world’s electric vehicle battery market, and 60 percent of electric cars sales in 2022 occurred in China.

Someone should tell them that  “half the worlds renewables” only made 7% of China’s total energy needs.

All the back up coal plants made 57%.


Thanks to NetZeroWatch for the inspiration.

Australia Offers Immigration and Resettlement to Pacific Climate Refugees

From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Climate crisis? Or an incentive not to sign a naval resupply agreement with China?

Anthony Albanese offers Tuvalu residents the right to resettle in Australia, as climate change ‘threatens its existence’

By foreign affairs reporter Stephen Dziedzic in Rarotonga and the Pacific Local Journalism Network’s Nick Sas

Posted 19h ago19 hours ago, updated 16h ago

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced a new pact with the low-lying island country of Tuvalu, allowing residents facing displacement from climate change the ability to resettle in Australia.  

Key points:

  • The deal is the first time Australia has offered residence or citizenship rights due to the threat posed by climate change
  • The US and New Zealand have similar agreements with other Pacific countries
  • Mr Albanese described it as the most significant agreement between Australia and a Pacific island nation ever

In a move which could transform Australia’s relationships with other small Pacific nations and the region as a whole, Mr Albanese announced the agreement at the Pacific Islands Forum in Cook Islands, flanked by Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Kausea Natano. 

The agreement will see 280 people per year given a “special mobility pathway” to “live, work and study” in Australia. Tuvalu has a permanent population of about 11,000 people. 

In return, Australia will have effective veto power over Tuvalu’s security arrangements with any other country.

…Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-11-10/tuvalu-residents-resettle-australia-sea-levels-climate-change/103090070

China’s chequebook diplomacy in the South Pacific has really rattled Australia in recent years, after China inked a deal to build a military base in the Solomon Islands, not far from Australia.

China has also been building other military grade deep water concrete dock facilities in defensible locations near the Australian coast, like the deepwater dock in Port Luganville in Vanuatu.

Most of the other islands in the area either have high quality concrete dock facilities, are in negotiations to build a high quality marina, and / or owe lots of money to China.

If I was less trusting I might be tempted to believe China is strenuously attempting to create a barricade of defensible, ready made deepwater harbour locations in a chain of Pacific islands forming a wide arc around Australia’s North East coast, which could be used to blockade US attempts to reach Australia via the Pacific Ocean, in the event of a major war or invasion. But obviously these are all projects for peace.

I doubt the “climate refugee” deal with Tuvalu will significantly improve Australia’s national security, if this is the goal. Pacific island politicians are experts at playing great powers off against each other, and extracting cash out of powerful neighbours which want to be their friends, they’ve had centuries of practice.

China and Australia have made their fair share of blunders in the region. Deep rooted expectations in both Chinese and Australian culture, about the paramount sanctity of signed agreements, has sometimes led to confusion and cultural misunderstandings when it encounters the more nuanced South Pacific way of doing business.

UN admits World will crash through Paris Agreement goals by a factor of two for 2030

Major fossil fuel-producing countries still plan to extract more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than is consistent with the Paris climate accord’s goal for limiting global temperature rise, according to a United Nations-backed study released Wednesday.

From JoNova

By Jo Nova

Top 20 Energy mining nations are planning to increase production, not decrease it.

Despite 151 nations signing the Paris Agreement, the UNEP has all but admitted that most of the world is not even pretending to meet their emissions promises. As is obvious in the graph below, governments of the top 20 producers of the evil coal, oil and gas are planning to dig up even more of it by 2030 than they do now. These 20 nations produce 80% of the world’s fossil fuels and somewhere out there are lots of customers.

The report appears to be a scorecard to guilt-trip the 20 naughty nations into giving up warmth, food or billions of dollars in exports, but it reads like the Paris Agreement is pure charade.

Governments plan to produce double the fossil fuels in 2030 than the 1.5°C warming limit allows

Stockholm, 8 November 2023 – A major new report published today finds that governments plan to produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, and 69% more than would be consistent with 2°C.

Who are we kidding?

The Production Gap really means “The Overshoot”.

The fossil fuel production gap — the difference between governments’ plans and projections and levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C and 2°C, as expressed in units of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel extraction and burning — remains large and expands over time. (See details in Chapter 2 and Figure 2.1.) https://www.unep.org/resources/production-gap-report-2023

Speaking of which China just opened the new 1,800 kilometer Haoji  Railway in 2019* — specifically to carry coal

It has 770 bridges spanning a total of 381 kilometers and 468 kilometers of tunnels. They started it in 2015.

No one is holding back on fossil fuels here: Wow, that is some bridge.


The 2023 Production Gap Report: “Phasing down or phasing up? Top fossil fuel producers plan even more extraction despite climate promises” is produced by Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Climate Analytics, E3G, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

*Corrected: The Haoji Railway was not opened this year but just before the Covid pandemic broke out,  years after “The Paris Agreement” was signed. Thanks Ross.

EV Sales Falter As Private Purchasers Remain Unconvinced

Car registrations across all fuel types grew 14.3% to a five-year high, SMMT says. Automakers initially touted EVs as electric variants of traditional combustion vehicles, which did themselves a disservice. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as EVs are as dissimilar to pure combustion vehicles as propellor aircraft are to jets. 


By Paul Homewood

Electric vehicle demand continues to falter and just one in four new battery cars are purchased by private buyers, according to latest industry data.

The number of car registrations across all fuel types grew 14.3 per cent and saw the most motors sold in an October for five years, new Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) data shows.
However, appetite for EVs is dwindling and it means manufacturers are now at real risk of missing costly targets requiring them to increase their zero-emission car sales from January.

The automotive trade body has reacted by calling on the Chancellor to ‘introduce incentives and facilitate infrastructure investment’ in the upcoming Autumn Statement in a bid to boost EV uptake.
A total of 153,529 car registrations in October was 7.2 per cent above pre-pandemic levels and the best performance in the month since 2018.

However, the statistics reveal that EV uptake isn’t accelerating as fast as manufacturers need it to in order to avoid costly penalties levied from 2024.
The data shows that EV uptake did grow for a 42nd consecutive month in October, rising 20.1 per cent year-on-year with 23,943 registrations in total.
Yet, private registrations accounted for fewer than one in four EVs bought, with large fleets fuelling the majority of sales in a stark indication that consumer demand is waning.

The volume of registrations last month means EVs made up only 15.6 per cent of all car sales, which is a long way short of the 22 per cent required of manufacturers from next year when the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate is introduced.
The annually-increasing thresholds of the mandate were rubberstamped in September, just days after the Government confirmed the delay to the ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by five years from 2030 to 2035 – a move experts say has played a significant part in stalling electric car demand in recent weeks.

Mainstream car makers that fail to meet the ZEV’s increasing sale targets from next year face substantial penalties or will be forced to purchase EV credits from other brands, such as Tesla and Polestar that only sell battery cars.
Fines amount to £15,000 for every car short of the binding targets. For vans, manufacturers will have to pay £9,000 per vehicle next year, before the van payment increases to £18,000 for the rest of the regulation’s timeframe.

Full story

Private buyers account for about 44% of all car sales.

Working back from the SMMT data, private sales of BEVs must have been about 5900 in October, out of a total private registrations of 62915. In other words, BEVs only account for 9% of private sales.

There is only so much appetite for EVs amongst business  and fleet buyers, so the government is going to get nowhere its targets whilst thee private market remains moribund.

Climate’s ‘Catch-22’: Cutting air pollution heats up the planet

Doomsters need your fears to produce a apocalyptic climate future. Let the climate boogey man walk around. Wag the dog.

Air pollution, a global scourge that kills millions of people a year, is shielding us from the full force of the sun. Getting rid of it will accelerate climate change tells Euractiv.

That’s the unpalatable conclusion reached by scientists poring over the results of China’s decade-long and highly effective “war on pollution”, according to six leading climate experts.

The drive to banish pollution, caused mainly by sulphur dioxide (SO2) spewed from coal plants, has cut SO2 emissions by close to 90% and saved hundreds of thousands of lives, Chinese official data and health studies show.

Yet stripped of its toxic shield, which scatters and reflects solar radiation, China’s average temperatures have gone up by 0.7 degrees Celsius since 2014, triggering fiercer heatwaves, according to a Reuters review of meteorological data and the scientists interviewed.

“It’s this Catch-22,” said Patricia Quinn, an atmospheric chemist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), speaking about cleaning up sulphur pollution globally. “We want to clean up our air for air quality purposes but, by doing that, we’re increasing warming.”

The removal of the air pollution – a term scientists call “unmasking” – may have had a greater effect on temperatures in some industrial Chinese cities over the last decade than the warming from greenhouse gases themselves, the scientists said.

Other highly polluted parts of the world, such as India and the Middle East, would see similar jumps in warming if they follow China’s lead in cleaning the skies of sulphur dioxide and the polluting aerosols it forms, the experts warned.

They said efforts to improve air quality could actually push the world into catastrophic warming scenarios and irreversible impacts.

“Aerosols are masking one-third of the heating of the planet,” said Paulo Artaxo, an environmental physicist and lead author of the chapter on short-lived climate pollutants in the most recent round of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), completed this year.

“If you implement technologies to reduce air pollution, this will accelerate – very significantly – global warming in the short term.”

The Chinese and Indian environment ministries didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the effects of pollution unmasking.

The link between reducing sulphur dioxide and warming was flagged by the IPCC in a 2021 report which concluded that, without the solar shield of SO2 pollution, the global average temperature would already have risen by 1.6 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

That misses the world’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5C, beyond which scientists predict irreversible and catastrophic changes to the climate, according to the IPCC, which pegs the current level at 1.1C.

The Reuters review of the Chinese data provides the most detailed picture yet of how this phenomenon is playing out in the real world, drawing on previously unreported numbers on changes in temperatures and SO2 emissions over the past decade and corroborated by environmental scientists.

Reuters interviewed 12 scientists in total on the phenomenon of unmasking globally, including four who have acted as authors or reviewers of sections on air pollution in IPCC reports.

They said there was no suggestion among climate experts that the world should let-up on fighting air pollution, a clear and present danger that the World Health Organization says causes about 7 million premature deaths a year, mostly in poorer countries.

Instead they stressed the need for more aggressive action to cut emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases, with reducing methane seen as one of the most promising paths to offset pollution unmasking in the short term.

Xi battles ‘airpocalypse’

President Xi Jinping pledged to tackle pollution when he took power in 2012 following decades of coal-burning that had helped turn China into “the factory of the world”. The following year, as record smog in Beijing inspired “Airpocalypse” newspaper headlines, the government unveiled what scientists called China’s version of the US Clean Air Act.

On 5 March 2014, a week after Xi went on a walkabout during another extreme bout of smog in the capital, the government officially declared a war on pollution at the National People’s Congress.

Under the new rules, power plants and steel mills were forced to switch to lower-sulphur coal. Hundreds of inefficient factories were shuttered, and vehicle fuel standards toughened up. While coal continues to be China’s largest power source, smokestack scrubbers now strip out most SO2 emissions.

China’s SO2 emissions had decreased from a 2006 peak of at nearly 26 million metric tons to 20.4 million tons in 2013 thanks to more gradual emissions restrictions. But with the war on pollution, those emissions had plummeted by about 87% to 2.7 million metric tons by 2021.

The drop in pollution was accompanied by a leap in warming – the nine years since 2014 have seen national average annual temperatures in China of 10.34C, up more than 0.7C compared with the 2001-2010 period, according to Reuters calculations based on yearly weather reports published by the China Meteorological Administration.

Scientific estimates vary as to how much of that rise comes from unmasking versus greenhouse gas emissions or natural climate variations like El Nino.

The impacts are more acute at a local level near the pollution source. Almost immediately, China saw big warming jumps from its unmasking of pollution near heavy industrial regions, according to climate scientist Yangyang Xu at Texas A&M University, who models the impact of aerosols on the climate.

Xu told Reuters he estimated that unmasking had caused temperatures near the cities of Chongqing and Wuhan, long known as China’s “furnaces”, to rise by almost 1C since sulphur emissions peaked in the mid-2000s.

During heatwaves, the unmasking effect can be even more pronounced. Laura Wilcox, a climate scientist who studies the effects of aerosols at Britain’s University of Reading, said a computer simulation showed that the rapid decline in SO2 in China could raise temperatures on extreme-heat days by as much as 2C.

“Those are big differences, especially for somewhere like China, where heat is already pretty dangerous,” she said.

Indeed, heatwaves in China have been particularly ferocious this year. A town in the northwestern region of Xinjiang saw temperatures of 52.2C (126F) in July, shattering the national temperature record of 50.3C set in 2015.

Beijing also experienced a record heatwave, with temperatures topping 35C (95F) for more than four weeks.

India and the Middle East

The effects of sulphur unmasking are most pronounced in developing countries, as the US and most of Europe cleaned up their skies decades ago. While the heat rise from sulphur cleanup is strongest locally, the effects can be felt in far-distant regions. One 2021 study co-authored by Xu found that a decrease in European aerosol emissions since the 1980s may have shifted weather patterns in Northern China.

In India, sulphur pollution is still rising, roughly doubling in the last two decades, according to calculations by NOAA researchers based on figures from the US-funded Community Emissions Data System.

In 2020, when that pollution plummeted due to COVID lockdowns, ground temperatures in India were the eighth warmest on record, 0.29 C higher than the 1981-2010 average, despite the cooling effects of the La Nina climate pattern, according to the India Meteorological Department.

India aims for an air cleanup like China’s, and in 2019 launched its National Clean Air Programme to reduce pollution by 40% in more than 100 cities by 2026.

Once polluted regions in India or the Middle East improve their air quality by abandoning fossil fuels and transitioning to green energy sources, they too will lose their shield of sulphates, scientists said.

“You stop your anthropogenic activities for a brief moment of time and the atmosphere cleans up very, very quickly and the temperatures jump instantaneously,” added Sergey Osipov, a climate modeller at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

Offsetting with methane?

As the implications of the pollution unmasking become more apparent, experts are casting around for methods to counter the associated warming.

One proposal called “solar radiation management” envisions deliberately injecting sulphur aerosols into the atmosphere to cool temperatures. But many scientists worry that the approach could unleash unintended consequences.

A more mainstream plan is to curb methane emissions. This is seen as the quickest way to tame global temperatures because the effects of the gas in the atmosphere last only a decade or so, so cutting emissions now would deliver results within a decade. Carbon dioxide, by comparison, persists for centuries.

As of 2019, methane had caused about 0.5C in warming compared with preindustrial levels, according to IPCC figures.

While more than 100 countries have pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30% by the end of the decade, few have gone further than drawing up “action plans” and “pathways” to cuts. China – the world’s biggest emitter – has yet to publish its plan.

By targeting methane, the world could mitigate the warming effect of the reduction in pollution and potentially avert catastrophic consequences, said Michael Diamond, an atmospheric scientist at Florida State University.

“This doesn’t doom us to going above 1.5 degrees Celsius if we clean up the air.”

Researchers argue that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not enough to combat climate change

According to a new paper in Oxford Open Climate Change, the strategies humanity must pursue to reduce climate change will have to include more than reducing greenhouse gases. This comes from an analysis of climate data led by researcher James Hansen. Phys.org has the story.

Scientists have known since the 1800s that infrared-absorbing (greenhouse) gases warm Earth’s surface, and that the abundance of greenhouse gases changes naturally as well as from human actions. Roger Revelle, who was one of the early scientists to study global warming, wrote in 1965 that industrialization meant that human beings were conducting a “vast geophysical experiment” by burning fossil fuels, which adds carbon dioxide (CO2) to the air. CO2 has now reached levels that have not existed for millions of years.

Climate sensitivity

A long-standing issue concerns how much global temperature will rise for a specified CO2 increase. A 1979 study released by the United States National Academy of Sciences concluded that doubling atmospheric CO2 with ice sheets fixed would likely cause global warming between 1.5 and 4.5° Celsius. This was a large range, and there was additional uncertainty about the delay in warming caused by Earth’s massive ocean.

This new paper reevaluates climate sensitivity based on improved paleoclimate data, finding that climate is more sensitive than usually assumed. Their best estimate for doubled CO2 is global warming of 4.8°C, significantly larger than the 3°C best estimate of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


The authors also conclude that much of the expected greenhouse gas warming in the past century has been offset by the cooling effect of human-made aerosols—fine airborne particles. Aerosols have declined in amount since 2010 as a result of reduced air pollution in China and global restrictions on aerosol emissions from ships. This aerosol reduction is good for human health, as particulate air pollution kills several million people per year and adversely affects the health of many more people.

However, aerosol reduction is now beginning to unmask greenhouse gas warming that had been hidden by aerosol cooling. The authors have long termed the aerosol cooling a “Faustian bargain” because, as humanity eventually reduces air pollution, payment in the form of increased warming comes due.

This new paper predicts that a post-2010 acceleration of global warming will soon be apparent above the level of natural climate variability. The 1970-2010 global warming rate of 0.18°C per decade is predicted to increase to at least 0.27°C per decade during the few decades after 2010. As a result, the 1.5°C global warming level will be passed this decade and the 2°C level will be passed within the following two decades.

Read the full story here .

Global discord threatens COP28 climate talks, EU commissioner says

More payments and costs for an unknown future with no apparent success. Greetings from the medievial indulgence trade.

China’s ambassador to the EU criticised the EU’s actions as “unjustified and regrettable,” cautioning last week against political confrontations jeopardising climate cooperation.

The need for agreement to tackle global warming is “higher than ever”, but it has never been harder as the geopolitical backdrop complicates international cooperation, the European Union’s climate chief said on Monday (30 October) ahead of next month’s COP28 summit, reports Euractiv .

Climate Action Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra also said the EU would not accept an outcome at COP28 that only reached deals on less contentious topics – such as increased use of renewable energy – if it failed to solve tougher issues such as phasing out fossil fuels.

“This is not an à la carte menu. It is actually all that is on the menu that needs to be delivered on,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of a preliminary COP28 gathering in Abu Dhabi ahead of the UN summit starting at the end of November.

The challenge of getting countries to agree is all the greater as Israel has escalated its bombardment of Gaza, Russia’s war on Ukraine continues and tensions run high between the US and China.

At the same time as “geopolitically very challenging times” make agreement on the climate harder than ever, the need is “higher than ever,” Hoekstra said.

Scientists have blamed global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, for extreme weather this year, which is on track to be the hottest on record.

Israel has so far rejected international calls for a temporary pause in its bombardment of Gaza and politicians have warned of the risk of a wider conflict.

Tensions have also risen between Europe and China as Brussels investigates whether to impose tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports that it says are state- subsidised.

Read the full story  here.

At the same time as “geopolitically very challenging times” make an agreement on climate harder than ever, the need is “higher than ever,” said Wopke Hoekstra, the EU’s climate chief. [Photo: European Union, 2023. Source: EC – Audiovisual Service]