What is the right model? Different MRIO models yield very different carbon footprints estimates in China

By June 26, 2020 Research

Appropriate accounting of greenhouse gas emissions is the first step to assign mitigation responsibilities and develop effective mitigation strategies. Consistent methods are required to fairly assess a region’s impact on climate change. Two leading reasons for the existence of different accounting systems are the political pressures, and the actual costs of climate mitigation to local governments. At the international level there has been consensus, and global environmentally extended multi-regional input-output (EE-MRIO) models that capture the interdependence of and their environmental impacts have been constructed.  However in China, the largest greenhouse gas emitter, where accurate interregional trade-related emission accounts are critical to develop mitigation strategies and monitor progresses at the regional level, this information is sporadic and inconsistent. Prof. Ming Xu from the School of Environment and Sustainability, and his research group, analyzed the available data from China, which dates back to 2012. They showed that the results varied wildly depending on the MRIO model used. For example, they found two MRIO models differed as much as 208 metric tons in a single region, which is equivalent to the emissions of Argentina, United Arab Emirates, or the Netherlands. Their results show the need to prioritize future efforts to harmonize greenhouse gas emissions accounting within China.

Ming Xu is an Associate Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability and in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research focuses on the broad fields of sustainable engineering and industrial ecology. 

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