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Global climate forcing of aerosols embodied in international trade


International trade separates regions consuming goods and services from regions where goods and related aerosol pollution are produced. Yet the role of trade in aerosol climate forcing attributed to different regions has never been quantified. Here, we contrast the direct radiative forcing of aerosols related to regions’ consumption of goods and services against the forcing due to emissions produced in each region. Aerosols assessed include black carbon, primary organic aerosol, and secondary inorganic aerosols, including sulfate, nitrate and ammonium. We find that global aerosol radiative forcing due to emissions produced in East Asia is much stronger than the forcing related to goods and services ultimately consumed in that region because of its large net export of emissions-intensive goods. The opposite is true for net importers such as Western Europe and North America: global radiative forcing related to consumption is much greater than the forcing due to emissions produced in these regions. Overall, trade is associated with a shift of radiative forcing from net importing to net exporting regions. Compared to greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, the short atmospheric lifetimes of aerosols cause large localized differences between consumption- and production-related radiative forcing. International efforts to reduce emissions in the exporting countries will help alleviate trade-related climate and health impacts of aerosols while lowering global emissions.

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Figure 1: Net aerosol emissions embodied in trade.
Figure 2: Global differences between consumption- and production-based radiative forcing (RFc − RFp).
Figure 3: Global production- and consumption-based radiative forcing of SIOA + POA and BC for all regions except Rest of the World.

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This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC; 41422502 and 41222036), the 973 program (2014CB441303 and 2014CB441301), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF; 10010002399). Z.Lu and D.S. acknowledge the support of the Modeling, Analysis and Predictability (MAP) programme of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under Proposal No. 08-MAP-0143. Z.Liu acknowledges the support of NSFC (41501605). D.G. acknowledges the support of NSFC (41328008), the National Key R&D Program of China (2016YFA0602604), the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ES/L016028/1), and the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/N00714X/1).

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Authors and Affiliations



J.L., Q.Z. and Y.Huang conceived the research. D.T., D.P., H.Z., T.F., Z.L., D.S. and Q.Z. calculated the emissions. R.N., Y.Y. and J.L. conducted chemical transport model simulations. X.T., R.N., Y.Huang and J.L. conducted radiative transfer model simulations. J.L., S.D., Y.Huang and R.N. led the analysis and writing. All authors contributed to the writing.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jintai Lin, Qiang Zhang or Yi Huang.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Lin, J., Tong, D., Davis, S. et al. Global climate forcing of aerosols embodied in international trade. Nature Geosci 9, 790–794 (2016).

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