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This week, Beijing was hit by China’s strongest sand storm in a decade and conservationists are blaming an ongoing “ecological crisis” in the north and west of one of the world’s most populous cities. Air quality readings, which averaged 80 throughout most of 2020, reached 999 on Monday, triggering a “yellow alert” from China’s weather bureau. The storm impacted 12 provinces and cities and prompted Beijing officials to impose a stay-at-home order for children and sick or elderly people. Experts say the storm is a symptom of unchecked industrial development, despite President Xi Jinping’s calls for a “green revolution” and commitments to reducing emissions.
Why This Matters: China is the world’s largest polluter, accounting for about 28% of the globe’s carbon emissions. China’s recently raised its 2030 national climate targets to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. But experts argue that the nation’s economic growth and development policy is at odds with its Paris agreement commitments. Strip mining, overgrazing, and industrial development in the region called Inner Mongolia have left the region’s sandy, grassy steppes unstable and prone to erratic weather patterns. Outside Beijing, industrial pollutants emitted so far in 2021 have exceeded the averages of the last four years. Experts worry that more frequent and severe dust storms could exacerbate respiratory illnesses and future COVID outbreaks.
How Did Development Turn to Sand?
Just last week, President Jinping met with delegates from Inner Mongolia, a region in northern China, to discuss combatting desertification in the already dry, grassy region. “We must adhere to the concept that clear waters and green mountains are as good as mountains of gold and silver,” he said. But just one week later, the sand storm swept through.
The storm, which grounded more than 400 flights, was “the result of land and ecological degradation in the north and west of Beijing,” said Li Shuo, policy director for Greenpeace China. “Beijing is what an ecological crisis looks like. After two weeks of smog and static air, strong wind carries a sand storm in, sending [air quality index] off the chart.” The sandstorm was kicked up by a late winter storm that swept through Mongolia, killing nine people and knocking outpower across the country.
The Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent has been experiencing a massive power outage after its largest volcano erupted last Friday, forcing widespread evacuations for the island’s 100,000 citizens. As NBC News reported, La Soufriere’s eruption — its first large one since 1979 — transformed the island’s lush towns and villages into gloomy, gray versions […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer A new paper published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience found that up to half of the global methane emissions come from aquatic ecosystems and man-made water sources like flooded agricultural land, ponds, wetlands, reservoirs, and salt marshes. Experts say that these emissions have gone uncounted for too long […]
Right now, Las Vegas, Nashville, and Phoenix all don’t have Amtrak service. That could change if the new Amtrak service map, released last week as part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan, gets built.
Why This Matters: Getting around by train is more energy-efficient than driving or flying, especially if it’s electrified.
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