Products made in China are associated with significantly higher carbon dioxide emissions than the same products made elsewhere, according to a study by scientists at three universities, including UC Irvine.
"The amazing increase in Chinese manufacturing over the past 15 years has driven the world economy to new heights and supplied consumers in developed countries with tremendous quantities of lower-cost goods," explains Steven J. Davis, a UCI assistant professor of Earth system science who co-authored the study. "But all of this has come at substantial cost to the environment."
Researchers from UCI, Harvard and the University of Maryland attribute China's high emissions intensity–the quantity of CO2 emitted per dollar of goods produced–to the nation's antiquated manufacturing processes and reliance on coal.
"The CO2 emissions related to China's exports are large not just because they export a lot of stuff or because they specialize in energy-demanding industries, but because their manufacturing technologies are less advanced and they rely primarily on coal for energy," says co-author Klaus Hubacek, a University of Maryland professor of geographical sciences.
Davis and his colleagues suggest that developed countries could do a lot to alleviate carbon pollution by helping improve manufacturing processes in China's dirtiest areas.
"Given the differences we observed within industries and across provinces in China, many opportunities would involve creating incentives to promote the adoption of Chinese best practices," says Zhu Liu, a research associate at Harvard, Resnick Prize postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology and the lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.