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Quantitative Estimation of the Climatic Effects of Carbon Transferred by International Trade

Journal article
Authors T. Wei
W. J. Dong
J. Moore
Q. Yan
Y. Song
Z. Y. Yang
W. P. Yuan
J. M. Chou
X. F. Cui
X. D. Yan
Z. G. Wei
Y. Guo
S. L. Yang
D. Tian
P. F. Lin
S. Yang
Z. P. Wen
H. Lin
M. Chen
G. L. Feng
Y. D. Jiang
X. Zhu
J. Chen
X. Wei
W. Shi
Z. G. Zhang
J. Dong
Y. X. Li
Deliang Chen
Published in Scientific Reports
Volume 6
ISSN 2045-2322
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Language en
Keywords greenhouse-gas emissions, co2 emissions, system model, responsibility, consumption, imports, growth, Science & Technology - Other Topics
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


Carbon transfer via international trade affects the spatial pattern of global carbon emissions by redistributing emissions related to production of goods and services. It has potential impacts on attribution of the responsibility of various countries for climate change and formulation of carbon-reduction policies. However, the effect of carbon transfer on climate change has not been quantified. Here, we present a quantitative estimate of climatic impacts of carbon transfer based on a simple CO2 Impulse Response Function and three Earth System Models. The results suggest that carbon transfer leads to a migration of CO2 by 0.1-3.9 ppm or 3-9% of the rise in the global atmospheric concentrations from developed countries to developing countries during 1990-2005 and potentially reduces the effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol by up to 5.3%. However, the induced atmospheric CO2 concentration and climate changes (e.g., in temperature, ocean heat content, and sea-ice) are very small and lie within observed interannual variability. Given continuous growth of transferred carbon emissions and their proportion in global total carbon emissions, the climatic effect of traded carbon is likely to become more significant in the future, highlighting the need to consider carbon transfer in future climate negotiations.

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