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China solves smog problem: See no evil

December 13th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Yes, it’s true that China’s air pollution can be seen from space (NASA photo).

NASA satellite observes intense air pollution and fog over eastern China on 7 December 2013.

attribution: NASA Earth Observatory

NASA satellite observes intense air pollution and fog over eastern China on 7 December 2013.

A new study funded by Greenpeace shows that a quarter of a million Chinese people died of air pollution from coal fired power plants in 2011. And the smog is worse this year.

The analysis traced the chemicals which are made airborne from burning coal and found a number of health damages were caused as a result. It estimates that coal burning in China was responsible for reducing the lives of 260,000 people in 2011. It also found that in the same year it led to 320,000 children and 61,000 adults suffering from asthma, 36,000 babies being born with low weight and was responsible for 340,000 hospital visits and 141 million days of sick leave.

NOAA model tracks smog from coal plant sources to Shanghai.

attribution: Greenpeace via Think Progress

NOAA model tracks smog from coal plant sources to Shanghai & eastern China cities.

“This study provides an unprecedentedly detailed picture of the health fallout from China’s coal burning,” said Dr Andrew Gray, a US-based expert on air pollution, who conducted the research. Using computer simulations, Gray said he was able to “draw a clear map tracing the trail of health damages left by the coal fumes released by every power plant in China, untangling the contribution of individual companies, provinces and power stations to the air pollution crisis gripping the country.”

Smog levels in Shanghai this December have been the worst in China’s long history. Many residents avoid going outside and many of those who do are wearing masks to try to filter out the dangerous small particulates in the air that came from coal fired power plants.

The smog was so thick it was visible indoors at the Shanghai airport on December 5.

“Heavy smog seeps into Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport on the evening of Dec 5, 2013. Air Quality Index (AQI), which measure PM2.5 particulates, topped 400 on Friday morning in Shanghai, meaning the city was “severely polluted”- the highest level on the air pollution scale – for the second time in a week. [Photo/]”

[This guest post comes from a scientist who feels like a FishOutOfWater contemplating the gap between scientific knowledge and understanding of environmental (especially climate change) issues and the societal/political community understanding of and action on them.]

The smog has been so thick that pilots couldn’t land their planes. The Chinese government is instituting new requirements that pilots must be able to land planes in low visibility conditions to reduce flight delays and cancellations.

BEIJING — Chinese aviation authorities will soon require captains of domestic flights into Beijing to master low-visibility landings to combat chronic flight delays that have been worsened by heavy smog.Beijing Capital International Airport, China’s busiest, has the worst record for flight delays of any major international airport, with only 18 percent of flights departing on time, according to travel industry monitor FlightStats. Thick smog has canceled or delayed flights at the Beijing airport when the city’s visibility goes down to a few hundred meters (yards) – though officials typically blame the delays on weather conditions rather than pollution.

“Sea of fog by leniners, on Flickr” Taken on December 5, 2013
Yanqiao Xiang, Shanghai, Shanghai, CN
Sea of fog

Smog levels beyond the top the U.S. consulate’s index caused the Chinese government to slow factories and order cars off roads.

Shanghai ordered vehicles off the road and factories to cut production after pollution reached hazardous levels. …A heavy fog shrouding Shanghai caused widespread flight cancellations and sent an air quality index monitored by the U.S. consulate in the city surging past 500 to the “beyond index” category.

China’s smog problems may seem intractable, but Chinese government officials have found a solution. They are still planning to build more coal fired power plants, because, after all, you can’t stop progress. They found a “common sense” solution that’  ALEC and the Kochs will bring to America if we let them.

The Shanghai environmental authority announced on Thursday that it has adjusted its air pollution standards to reduce the number of alerts, adding that they will still be frequent in winter. …The municipality’s Environmental Protection Bureau will now lift air pollution alerts when the concentration of PM2.5 — particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that can penetrate deep into human lungs — falls below 115 micrograms per cubic meter.

Previously, the bureau lifted alerts after the concentration of PM2.5 dropped below 75 micrograms per cubic meter. (The U.S. EPA’s 24 hour limit is 35.)

The bureau issued an orange alert — the second-highest in its four-level warning system — at 5 pm on Thursday when the concentration of PM2.5 stood at nearly 280 micrograms per cubic meter. The severe pollution will last until Friday.

The bureau said it believes the original standard is too strict, given that haze is common in the Yangtze River Delta region in winter.

“The warm air in higher altitudes blocks the cold air in winter, so it’s hard for pollutants to be diffused,” said Qian Hua, director of the research institute of atmospheric environment under the Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences.

“The absence of cold air blowing in from the north makes diffusion even harder,” Qian said.

China Solves Smog Problem

3 Wise Monkeys

See no evil.
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Tags: China · environmental · guest post · pollution

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Krempfast // Feb 5, 2014 at 10:22 am

    How do you start tackling a problem like this? You would expect them to be at the forefront of renewable energy.