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Analysis of data from China suggests faster global climate change

SINGAPORE/BEIJING-- China's carbon emissions could be nearly 20 percent higher than previously thought, a new analysis of official Chinese data showed on Sunday, suggesting the pace of global climate change could be even faster than currently predicted.

China has already overtaken the United States as the world's top greenhouse gas polluter, producing about a quarter of mankind's carbon pollution that scientists say is heating up the planet and triggering more extreme weather.

But pinning down an accurate total for China's carbon emissions has long been a challenge because of doubts about the quality of its official energy use data.

It is that data which is used to compute how the planet's climate will change, helping plan for more extremes of drought, flood and the impact on crops.

“The sad fact is that Chinese energy and emission data as primary input to the models will add extra uncertainty in modeling simulations of predicting future climatic change,” say the authors of a study in the journal Nature Climate Change. The team of scientists from China, Britain and the United States, led by Dabo Guan of the University of Leeds, studied two sets of energy data from China's National Bureau of Statistics. One set presented energy use for the nation, the other for its provinces.

They compiled the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission inventories for China and its 30 provinces for the period 1997-2010 and found a big difference between the two datasets.

'More uncertain than ever'

“The paper identifies a 1.4-billion-ton emission gap (in 2010) between the two datasets. This implies greater uncertainties than ever in Chinese energy statistics,” Guan, a senior lecturer at the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds University, told Reuters in an emailed response to questions.

That is slightly more than the annual emissions of Japan, one of the world's top-five greenhouse gas polluters.

Guan added the China is not the only country with inconsistent energy data.

Scientists say the world is already racing toward a warming of 2 degrees Celsius or more in coming decades because of the rapid growth in emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Adding another billion tons into computer models would accelerate the pace of expected warming.

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