Global climate forcing of aerosols embodied in international trade

Jintai Lin, Dan Tong, Steven Davis, Ruijing Ni, Xiaoxiao Tan, Da Pan, Hongyan Zhao, Zifeng Lu, David Streets, Tong Feng, Qiang Zhang, Yingying Yan, Yongyun Hu, Jing Li, Zhu Liu, Xujia Jiang, Guannan Geng, Kebin He, Yi Huang, Dabo Guan

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-794
Number of pages5
JournalNature Geoscience
Early online date5 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Atmospheric science
  • Attribution
  • Climate change
  • Environmental sciences

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