China is certainly no stranger to pollution, especially major cities like Beijing. People there have learned to live with the annual “airpocalypses” that intrude their lives. Citizens walk around wearing face masks as if it were the norm.
Most cities in China are heavily reliant on fossil fuels to produce energy. This means high carbon emissions and it increases in the Air Quality Index. That’s a bad thing.
The levels in the Air Quality Index range from 0-500, where 0-50 is considered “good.” To put things in perspective, the worst levels of air pollution in the United States come from Portola, California, measuring 146 on the Air Quality Index. This figure is not even half of Beijing’s air quality, which regularly hovers around the 300 mark and above. In 2013, the northern city of Harbin even reached 1,000.
China’s environment ministry warns that unfavorable weather in autumn and winter could worsen smog. Humid winters worsen the effects of pollution, making the air harder to breathe and lowering visibility.
While the Chinese government has implemented plans in order to meet their goal of cutting emissions in half by 2020, and have been progressing towards a smaller carbon footprint, the current Air Quality Index seems to indicate the opposite.
The government states, however, that the sudden deterioration in the air quality is due to the irregularities in winter weather, and does not reflect the progress that they have made in the “war against pollution.”