China has pushed through a number of high-profile, anti-air pollution policies in recent months, but the country’s skies are more choked with toxic smog now than they were last year. Reuters reports:
The 74 cities struggled with pollution on 26.9 percent of the days in July, up from 19.5 percent a year ago, data on the Ministry of Environmental Protection website said…The air was worst in northern China, where Beijing, Tianjin and seven cities in Hebei province made the list of the 10 worst cities. Air pollution was judged high on 57.4 percent of the days in July, up from 51.4 percent last year. […]Tuesday’s government data showed that coal-reliant China is not making much of a dent in pollution levels despite closing down thousands of heavy-polluting facilities across the nation.
The causes of China’s “airpocalypse” are myriad. The smog hovering over the country’s megacities comes from coal plants, manufacturing facilities, and car tailpipes, to name just a few sources. China has already begun to address its air pollution problem, but may not begin to see results for at least a few months. Meanwhile, coal is one of the cheapest ways for China to heat its homes and power its cities, though greens and Chinese urbanites will be loathe to hear it. Replacing coal as a baseload power source with lesser-polluting sources like nuclear energy or natural gas will only be done gradually, and coal will play a major role in the country’s energy mix for decades to come.There’s no magic solution that will instantly clear Chinese skies, but thanks to public pressure Beijing is taking this environmental hazard more seriously than it has in the past. If the country’s central planners were really serious about cutting down on smog, however, they’d be looking at ways to hasten China’s transition into an information economy. There’s no rule anywhere that says one must first industrialize, and there’s no reason why China must follow the Western development model.