Tale of Two Cities: Why Beijing Smog Trumps Shanghai’s and Always Will

(Research Note: There is almost TOO MUCH on the web about China’s emissions problems. But for breadth and up-to-datedness, the master document – which I just found – is “The Great Coal Cap
China’s energy policies and the financial implications for thermal coal” available at http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.asria.org/resource/collection/1B7CBA3C-1807-4FA7-8E75-644FBCD9B6BA/CT_China_Full_Report_Final_web.pdf. I shall refer to this document as “Coal Cap 2013”).


Beijing’s “haze” or wumai 雾霾 has been part of the landscape for a long long while. Bicyclists and now even tourists have been wearing improvised gasmasks – just as blossomed during the SARS panic of (?) – for so long that they are part of the visual landscape. But Beijing is now no longer the monopolist of this miasmatic, spooky trademark. (See http://www.greenpeace.org/china/zh/news/releases/climate-energy/2014/01/PM25-ranking/), nor even anywhere near the top. Even by the compromised standards (“we are a developing nation”) of that hypertropic polity (its target is 75 micrograms/M3 of air – the WHO cut off is 25!), for the first full data-year (2013), 24 of 74 monitored cities gridmarked all across the country were in the danger zone, and not a one was in compliance with the WHO standard.

Though it must be noted that there is one cluster of cities and provinces that hover well above any rank list: 京津冀及周边地区, the so-called Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei-and-Adjacent Region (which also includes Inner Mongolia, Shandong and Shanxi). The symbolic metropoles within this region rank very high. Beijing (No. 13, at 90.1 micrograms, Tianjin (no 11) at 95.6, and Shijiazhuang (Hebei’s provincial capital) (no 2) at an unbelievable 148.5!

Even before the full results of the first year of monitoring (2013) were available, an unprecedented sense of 5-mins -to-midnight percolated through the inner core in Beijing, resulting (inter alia) in
2013年9月17日颁发了《京津冀及周边地区落实大气污染防治行动计划实施细则》program. Proof that THIS TIME concrete measures will be enforced is evident in a brand new public information video-bulletining that will not just keep everyone anywhere aware in real time of which of 74 cities scattered all across the country, but will soon also issue 48 hour warnings to those cities’ citizens who are about to encounter “red-alert” levels of particle pollution. All this is part of a State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC)’s “action plan

The “status alert” warning meant to be issued by TV looks like this:

400654824the new air wuality index expanded and translated

Though the “baseline” [yellow] contaminate levels are way above the US or global cutoff, it is at least a first step, and if it looks alarming with all that red pigment, it is meant to be so

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