Nearly 90 percent of the major cities in China have failed to meet air quality standards in 2014, according to a new report by the country’s Minister of Environmental Protection. The report found that 66 of 74 major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin did not meet standards. The Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing, is home to the 10 worst cities in terms of air pollution.
The only positive was that according to the report, 2014 had 3.7 percent fewer “severely polluted” days compared to 2013. The bulk of the country’s most polluted cities are located in the north. On the other hand, the Hainan Province, an island in southern China, boasted the nation’s best air quality and the least air pollution.
China is well known for its urban pollution, which in some cases is at toxic levels. The pollution measures include regular readings of particles found in the air as well as carbon monoxide and ozone. Chinese scientists have already warned that the toxic soup of pollution is slowing photosynthesis and as a result, hurting agricultural production.
The “pea soup” smog which blankets the northern cities is small enough to get into people’s lungs and bloodstreams, impacting public heath. And even tourism has felt the pangs of the dirty air with grounded flights and closed highways. It’s been described as looking like a nuclear winter.
One man, Li Guixin, is even suing the government as a result of the pollution. “Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes, it is a beneficiary,” he told the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily, according to The Guardian.
The problem is enough to motivate real change in a country that has grown at an astonishing rate. Reducing smog in China will take huge acts like tightening control over power plant emissions and capping coal consumption. Inefficient coal fired industrial boilers need to be shut down and cleaner fuel standards need to be introduced. China is also ideal grounds for the growth of the electric car. And finally, improved urban planning needs to include more green space.
Coal causes the majority of China’s emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. So what better place to expand zero emission energy sources like wind and solar? This expansion, along with phasing out coal power, would make the biggest difference in air quality in these highly populated areas. I hope this motivates China to take steps in the right direction to get a hold on smog, especially in the northern cities.
What do you think of China’s pollution problems and what would you do to fix them? Do you take your air quality for granted and have you ever lived with bad air quality?
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Young Chinese boy wearing air pollution mask from Shuttershock