On Sunday, Beijing issued its highest smog alert of the year, upgrading the yellow warning which had been in place for the past few days to orange, resulting in more than 2,100 major companies in polluting industries suspending their operations and all construction sites stopping their work in order to cut emissions.
But, it seems like too little, too late as the capital is now experiencing its most severe levels of pollution this year.
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) December 1, 2015
Yup, that reads a PM2.5 level of 2,242. The WHO consideres the safe level of PM2.5 particles to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter and China has a national standard of 75 micrograms. While this reading hasn’t been confirmed elsewhere, several monitoring sites downtown recorded levels of more than 600 micrograms per cubic meter, while in the Beijing suburbs, readings were as high as 976 micrograms.
With air pollution levels at 35 times what is considered safe, schools in Beijing have been ordered to keep their students indoors today. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping is missing out on all the fun due to his impeccably timed trip to the COP21 UN Conference on climate change summit in Paris. He’ll be back in Beijing on Sunday.
This all comes as China has recently announced that it has achieved the pollution reduction targets for major pollutants outlined in its 12th Five Year Plan six months ahead of schedule. It also comes after reports that China is burning 17% more coal than it says it is.
Cities in the northeast of China frequently experience high levels of air pollution during winter due to the concentration of heavy industry and coal-fired power plants in the region. On Sunday, Hohhot more or less resembled the landscape of Mars during a dust storm.
Officials say that the heavy smog will continue until Wednesday when a cold front will move in from the west to help disperse the pollutants, allowing Beijingers to once again see more than 100 yards in front of them.
At least people will stop complaining about how cold it’s been.
[Images via NetEase]