As Chinese President Xi Jinping joined other world leaders this week to discuss climate change, and to nut out some type of agreement in Paris, his capital was choking on a deadly man-made smog.
I know that may sound over the top, but I don’t know how else to better describe the extent of China’s air quality problem, or what’s going on in Beijing at present.
It’s that bad. It’s not just a problem. The air pollution in parts of China has reached what could be described as disaster levels. And most of it comes from the burning of coal, which provides 60 percent of the country’s energy needs.
“You can’t even see people standing directly in front of you,” stated one netizen via the social media platform Sina Weibo, according to AFP.
“It feels like even the subway station is full of haze.”
The authorities ordered hundreds of factories to suspend operations, and allowed children to stay home and miss school so they could avoid the smog, which reached more than 25 times safe levels, casting a cloud over China’s participation in the Paris climate talks, reports The Telegraph.
Over 30 flights from Beijing and Shanghai were also cancelled.
See this BBC News report of the pollution affecting Beijing at present, and how some of the locals feel about it:
But here are some startling figures for you:
Researchers say air pollution kills 4,000 people per day in China.
If you aren’t aware of those figures, they’re from an independent research group called Berkeley Earth, who are funded largely by educational grants.
“When I was last in Beijing, pollution was at the hazardous level: Every hour of exposure reduced my life expectancy by 20 minutes,” Richard Muller, scientific director of Berkeley Earth, told Bloomberg. “It’s as if every man, woman, and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour.”
The killer part of the smog is tiny poisonous particles known as PM2.5s, which can penetrate the lungs, and go on to promote fatal diseases.
The PM2.5 smog affects a lot of Chinese, especially those living in the industrialized areas of the country’s northeast. Beijing and the surrounding areas of Tianjin, along with Hebei, ranked among the five worst polluted Chinese provinces, says Greenpeace.
Readings of PM2.5 particles this week in the capital reached into the high 600 micrograms per cubic meter, reported AP. The World Health Organization says the safe level is 25. Some suburban neighborhoods logged levels up in the 900s on Monday.
By Wednesday, there may be some respite for Beijing, as strong winds are expected to drive the smog away.
See this video by China Uncensored about China’s unbelievable bad air pollution: