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Illustration: Egan Jimenez / Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Although China is increasing its solar energy supply, air pollution is blocking sunlight and reducing energy output in China, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study is the first to calculate how much aerosols in the atmosphere are reducing China's solar energy generating efficiency.

Why it matters: China has set a goal of meeting 10% of the country's electricity needs with solar by 2030, and this shows a potentially intractable obstacle to meeting that milestone. On the flip side, it could encourage countries with emerging solar power to cut emissions or refocus solar panel efforts to more sparsely populated or remote areas, where pollution is less severe.

Magnitude of the problem:

  • The study shows that in the northern and eastern parts of the country, which are the most polluted, aerosol pollution is reducing solar electricity generation potential by as much as 35% per day. (Burning fossil fuels increases aerosol concentrations in the atmosphere.)
  • In the winter, when pollution is worst, air pollution in the area is blocking about 20% of sunlight from reaching solar panel arrays.

What's next: The researchers are looking to analyze other regions, including India also which suffers greatly from air pollution.

The study measured irradiance from the sun and analyzed aerosol components and clouds in the atmosphere using a solar photovoltaic performance model and NASA satellite data. They ran 9 separate analyses from 2003 to 2014 over all of China.

Go deeper

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
4 hours ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

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