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Beijing’s reputation for smog may be lifting. In 2013, the city’s pollution was so bad that people called it an “air-pocalypse.” Readings for PM2.5, a tiny pollution particle that can adversely impact human health, hit 900 micrograms per square meter, 90 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended daily levels.
Why This Matters: Air pollution is a killer and one of the leading causes of early death in people. Worse yet, poor air quality causes 1 million deaths in China each year. Cleaning up Beijing’s air means that the city’s 21 million residents are able to live healthier lives. Cleaner air and blue skies might also continue to drive China’s environmental strategy—recent research suggests that “the low-carbon energy policies, traditionally regarded as a primary result of climate mitigation, are likely driven more by the efforts on air quality attainment in China.”
Clearer Skies Could Mean Warmer Temps: Most of China’s clean air policies have focused on reducing aerosols and pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2). While this is good for people’s respiratory health, it might have the inadvertent impact of increasing temperatures by 0.1 degree Celsius. Sulfate aerosol emissions are terrible for the lungs, but they also can absorb and reflect solar radiation. From 2006-2017, sulfur dioxide levels in China fell by 70 percent, reducing their cooling effect.
“The success of Chinese policies to further reduce aerosol emissions may bring additional net warming, and this ‘unmasked’ warming would in turn compound the challenge and urgency of international climate mitigation efforts,” the study authors write. “This unmasked warming may require more efforts to mitigate climate change. . . Policymakers could consider implementing measures that simul- taneously help to reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. For example, future policies in China could facilitate the introduction of more renewable energy to the country’s coal-dominated energy system.”
Delegates attending the COP26 conference in Glasgow will get to see a very cool display during their stay. So cool, in fact, that it’s been frozen since 1765. Artist Wayne Binitie and scientists of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have retrieved an Antarctic time capsule containing the world’s purest air. The pocket of atmosphere was […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The European Environment Agency (EEA) found that a majority of EU countries broke at least one air pollution limit last year — despite COVID-19 lockdowns. In addition, 17 EU countries failed to stay below ozone pollution targets, which directly influence global warming; and eight EU countries failed to stay […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer An Indonesian district court ruled yesterday that Indonesian President Joko Widodo has neglected Jakarta’s residents right to clean air. In a unanimous ruling in favor of the 32 residents who brought the case, the Central Jakarta District Court ordered Widodo, and six other top officials deemed negligent, to improve […]
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