Beijing woke up today to its first ever “red alert” for air pollution. While you might think this would mean practically no visibility, PM 2.5 levels of over 9,000 and some literal scenes of airpocalypse, it actually doesn’t seem to be all that bad.
When the red alert came into effect at 7 a.m. earlier this morning, the US Embassy’s air pollution monitor measured the PM 2.5 level in Beijing at 291 micrograms per cubic meter. That number dropped to 250 by 11 a.m. and then went back up the 367 by 1 p.m.
Which is definitely “hazardous” and all, but it is still three times less severe than the air quality measured last week at certain locations in Beijing. That smog only warranted an “orange alert” level.
For Beijing’s first ever red alert, schools across the city were forced to closed, half of the cars were taken off the road and outdoor construction work was halted. Of course, coal-fired power stations are still running, but barbecues are strictly prohibited during this sensitive time.
Still, it doesn’t seem like all that much has changed.
Can't work because of Beijing smog red alert? Just kick back with a smoke and an 11am beer pic.twitter.com/NWloHDCCWr
— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsin) December 8, 2015
Beijing haiku: A man on a bench in code red smog pulls down his mask To drag on a cigarette. pic.twitter.com/vaJA0R4jVw
— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) December 8, 2015
Visitors still flocked to Tiananmen Square earlier today to try to see the sights and the flag being raised.
Meanwhile, public transportation was as crowded as always.
So, why did authorities decide to raise the level to red this time? No one is certain. Some believe that Beijing finally was forced to give in to growing public pressure.
However, we are sure that it could have been so much worse, and we have one man to thank.