On Friday Beijing, China, the air pollution was so bad that they went on an orange alert for the first time, according to the Xinua news agency. The country, which Bloomberg notes is highly reliant on coal for its power demands, is “the world’s biggest carbon emitter.”
China has taken some preliminary measures to help alleviate the smog problem that plagues Beijing and other industrialized cities, but, according to the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, the country needs to drastically reduce their reliance on using coal to power their cities and factories,
Li Junfeng, the director general of the state body that advises the Chinese government on climate-change related issues, recommends that China — which uses coal for about 65 percent of its energy demands — needs to reduce that number by at least two percentage points per year.
The air pollution levels in Beijing have now risen to eight times the levels that the World Health Organization (WHO) states elevates health risks to humans. Inspection teams have been sent to Beijing and its surrounding environs to monitor the efforts being made by local authorities to combat air pollution.
According to Ma Jun, chief economist for greater China, for China to attain its pollution-cut target, the country needs to “cut heavy industries’ share in gross domestic output by 9 percentage points between 2013 and 2030.”
Ma added the proposal that the reliance on coal by heavy industries and manufacturing in China should be reduced, during the next six years leading up to 2030, to 46 percent or less. This may be difficult to accomplish, as these industries, in 2012, made up 46 percent of the country’s economy.
Emergency measures have been introduced by several cities in China with the intended goal of cutting the concentration of some of the air pollutants by five percent to 25 percent by 2017.
The concentration of fine particulates in air pollution have come under fire recently, and have been linked to elevated cancer risks as well as respiratory health risks. At 11 a.m. Saturday, 198 micrograms per cubic meter of these fine particulates were measured near Tiananmen Square in Beijing. According to the WHO, in a 24-hour-period, there should be measured no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
Since Friday, according to the Xinhua News Agency, the majority of the provinces in east and central China have recorded serious levels of air pollution. Also, Beijing and five eastern and northern provinces in China have stated that they have experienced high levels of smog. It won’t be until Monday, at the earliest, according to the National Meteorological Center, that the air pollution might clear out.
What are some measures that Beijing and China are taking to control air pollution?
Other measures that China is taking to control their air pollution problem include placing limits on the numbers of vehicles allowed on the road and even suspending production in factories on a temporary basis. They have been driven to take these actions because the smog has been at dangerous levels for several days now.
Much of China has been under a yellow smog alert issued by the National Meteorological Center (NMC) for four straight days.
Sunday morning, an area that went to the orange alert level was north China’s Shijiazhuang, which is the capital of Hebei Province. An emergency response was put into effect, which resulted in the use of private vehicles being cut by 20 percent. On Sunday, license plates with the last number of either 1 or 6 must be off the road in the province’s larger cities.
Also on Sunday morning, five cities in Nebei (the top steel producing province in China) shut down production at several steel companies and related industries.
In Beijing, which also hit the orange alert level this past Friday, production at major manufacturing factories was either suspended or cut, construction work has been halted, and people are not even being allowed to barbecue or operate the popular barbecue stands located in the vicinity of Beijing’s Minzu University of China.
Beijing’s road sweepers have increased how often they sweep and spray down the roads, a well. Their working hours have been extended since Thursday.
According to Zhang Zengshou, the general manager of Beijing Jinyu Concrete, they have suspended production at two of their factories. Though the two plants are “the main production stations of our company,” Zhang said that they had to follow “the city’s regulation and shut them down.”
Also sports meets and outdoor physical education classes and exercise in parks have been temporarily called off.
Beijing, China’s capital city, and the Nebei province, are on the orange alert level because of the dangerous air pollution that plagues these areas. Much of the rest of China is at the yellow level, lower than the orange one, but is still causes elevated health risks. Coal powers the economy of Beijing and the entire country of China, but unless the country begins to cut their reliance on coal, its citizens will continue to face increased health risks due to air pollution.
Written by: Douglas Cobb