In China’s capital, they’re calling it the “airpocalypse,” with air pollution that’s literally off the charts. The air has been classified as hazardous to human health for a fifth consecutive day, at its worst hitting pollution levels 25 times that considered safe in the U.S. The entire city is blanketed in a thick grey smog that smells of coal and stings the eyes, leading to official warnings to stay inside.
Environmentalists say it’s the worst pollution since monitoring began last year, while many others believe the levels are unprecedented in Beijing’s history. The smog has affected more than 30 cities in China, leading even the official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, to ask plaintively: “How can we get out of this suffocating siege of pollution?”
The conditions are expected to linger for two more days.
China is choking on its own breakneck development, with thousands of new cars taking to the road every day. This year, the pollution has been exacerbated by weather patterns, combined with an unusually cold spell.
“In the winter, we have to burn more coal to get heating,” says Zhou Rong of Greenpeace. She says around 50 percent of Beijing’s air pollution is historically due to coal-fired power stations. “Another reason is the weather pattern makes the whole atmosphere very, very stable, and so all the air pollution accumulates down to the ground, so we are getting higher and higher air pollution.”
More at Louisa Lim/NPR