For the seventh day this month, Shanghai officials have warned children and the elderly to stay inside in a city where 24 hours exposed to the off-the-charts pollution would have hazardous consequences to one’s health. Hundreds of flights and sporting events have been cancelled, while face masks and air purifiers sold out in stores. All week, the pollution level hovered at “heavily” and “severely” polluted, according to Shanghai’s Air Quality Index, at up to 31 times the recommended levels.
Eerie photographs of Shanghai show a city in a yellow haze:
Officials have ordered vehicles off the road to curb air pollution, so far removing roughly 30 percent.
Despite warnings, runners who completed a Monday marathon complained of their lungs hurting.
This image from the city’s official index shows PM2.5, a small harmful particle for human health, at a concentration that almost broke the scale China uses to measure air quality, a range from 0–500.
A heat map from a Greenpeace analysis of NOAA data shows how the smog has traveled from coal-burning regions into the city. Orange shows the highest concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and the pollutant’s trajectory. The sources come from coal regions Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong and Henan.
What is China, and the world, doing to cut the sources of debilitating pollution?
In 2013, China has doubled its renewable energy sector, accounting for over half of new power capacity. Recognizing more recently that renewable incentives must be paired with consequences for fossil fuels, China is launching its first carbon trading scheme and more transparency of public health trends.
Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping have also announced they will seek to eliminate potent greenhouse gasses and to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). With Vice President Joe Biden is in China this week, the U.S. and China discussed a more aggressive approach to lowering vehicle emissions.
Until China’s air problems improve, it is taking more than five years off the lives of northern residents.