Photo of Dan Tong

Energy & sustainability

Dan Tong

She revealed the transfer of pollution emissions implied by international trade

Year Honored


International trade has developed rapidly under the background of economic globalization. Therefore, the production process of goods has shifted from the final consumption area to the production area, and the related pollutant emissions have also been transferred, which has changed the spatial and temporal distribution of atmospheric pollutant emissions and their environmental and climate effects. What is the impact of economic trade on the global and regional atmospheric environment? How do we quantify this in science? This is still a blank field in the world.

Dr. Dan Tong, who is from the University of California, Irvine, fills this gap. She developed the anthropogenic emission inventories in 2007 by adopting the bottom-up technology-based approach, which revealed the complex impacts of international trade on global climate forcing aerosol pollution, and the global premature deaths from ambient PM2.5 pollutions as a result of economic trade and atmospheric transport for the first time. It’s worth mentioning that her Nature paper became an ESI hot paper, an ESI high-cited paper, and was also nominated as one of China's top ten scientific progresses of that year.

In January 2018, Dan Tong published another paper titled, “Targeted Emission Reductions from Global Super-Polluting Power Plant Units” as the first author on the first issue of Nature Sustainability. She developed a new global database of unit-based power plants’ emissions and quantified the emissions from global super-polluting power plant units for the first time. Meanwhile, Nature Sustainability published the “News & Views” term “small and bad” on the same issue, and highly praised this work.

In July of 2019, Dan Tong’s paper “Committed Emissions from Existing Energy Infrastructure Jeopardize 1.5 °C Climate Target” was accepted by Nature. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) "Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C" pointed out that the average global surface temperature is now about 1 °C higher than the pre-industrial level, warning that we need to seriously transform to achieve the 1.5 °C global target. Dan Tong's research found that even if only active and planned basic energy facilities (operating in historical conditions) are considered, their future carbon emissions will significantly exceed the carbon emission budget under the 1.5 °C temperature control target. This research will be cited by the sixth assessment report of the IPCC and is expected to exert greater influence in the future international community.

In the future, Dan Tong hopes to focus more on future emission and help decision makers find precise emission reduction methods.