China Smog Update

Over the summer, I wrote about the high level of air pollution in Beijing in an environmental education iBook. Here is an excerpt:

In Beijing in 2010, an air quality monitor measured smog at “hazardous” levels on the Air Quality Index. Smog was concentrating in the streets of Beijing, causing people to wear masks to block the pollutants. The citizens of China began running air purifiers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because of the 20 million factories, multitude of new cars on the road, and the fact that Beijing is on a plain surrounded by hills that traps smog for days with little wind, the China smog situation has gotten worse. In January 2013, smog levels hit 755 : 255 points higher on the Air Quality Index than the “hazardous” level.

Smog in Harbin

However, despite these high levels previously recorded, they have gotten higher. Last week, on October 21st, the levels were measured at 1,000 in Harbin, a city in northeast China about 13 hours away from Beijing. Reuters reported school, airport and bus closings in the city, where the visibility was less than about 30 feet. Reuters also reported that high-smog levels were reported in other northeastern Chinese cities.

Clearly, the smog problem is hitting cities around China, which the American Geophysical Union speculates is a result of increased coal production in China. Increased coal production and consumption is because of increased industry and residential heating measures, since winter coming soon.

And of course, people in the area documented the smog on Instagram. Click through to see a collection of these photos from Business Insider.

As touched on in my recent Montana coal blog post, increased coal development in the US (especially in Montana and Wyoming) is likely going to be sent to China for their increasing industry needs, which would simply exacerbate the problem.

There doesn’t seem to be a band-aid fix for this smog problem – unless everyone moved out of the city and industry scatters around the country, which doesn’t seem likely at this point. Cities around the world can take measures to decrease the amount of smog – the most effective way being to drive less.

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