Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Atmospheric Effects of the Emerging Mainland Chinese Transportation System at and Beyond the Regional Scale


Local surface travel needs in the People's Republic of China (mainland China) have traditionally been met largely by nonpolluting bicycles. A major automobile manufacturing/importing effort has begun in the country over the last decade, and planning documents indicate that the Chinese may strive to acquire more than 100 million vehicles early in the next century. By analogy with large automotive fleets already existing in the western world, both regional and global scale pollution effects are to be expected from the increase. The present work adopts the latest projections of Chinese automobile manufacture and performs some quantitative assessments of the extent of pollution generation. Focus for the investigation is placed upon the oxidant ozone. Emissions of the precursor species nitrogen oxides and volatile organics are constructed based on data for the current automotive sector in the eastern portion of the United States. Ozone production is first estimated from measured values for continental/oceanic scale yields relative to precursor oxidation. The estimates are then corroborated through idealized two dimensional modeling of the photochemistry taking place in springtime air flow off the Asian land mass and toward the Pacific Ocean. The projected fleet sizes could increase coastal and remote oceanic ozone concentrations by tens of parts per billion (ppb) in the lower troposphere. Influences on the tropospheric aerosol system and on the major greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are treated peripherally. Nitrogen oxides created during the vehicular internal combustion process will contribute to nitrate pollution levels measured in the open Pacific. The potential for soot and fugitive dust increases should be considered as the automotive infrastructure develops. Since the emerging Chinese automotive transportation system will represent a substantial addition to the global fleet and all the carbon in gasoline is eventually oxidized completely, a significant rise in global carbon dioxide inputs will ensue as well. Some policy issues are treated preliminary. The assumption is made that alterations to regional oxidant/aerosol systems and to terrestrial climate are conceivable. The likelihood that the Chinese can achieve the latest vehicle fleet goals is discussed, from the points of view of new production, positive pollution feedbacks from a growing automobile industry, and known petroleum reserves. Vehicular fuel and maintenance options lying before the Chinese are outlines and compared. To provide some perspective on the magnitude of the environmental changes associated with an Asian automotive buildup, recent estimates of the effects of future air traffic over the Pacific Rim are described.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View