Airpocalypse as pollution index goes from 'crazy bad' to 'unhealthy', then 'beyond index'
With 400,000 new cars taking to the streets every year and with the permanent population increasing by 400,000 people every year, it’s a tough job, according to Qiao Shufang, an official with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
There were plenty of angry comments online. One Beijing online commentator wrote on the Twitter-style Weibo: “This has nothing to do with patriotism. I love my country, but I’d rather die in a war protecting the country, not PM 2.5, it’s such a cheap way to die.”
Another wondered what had happened to the clean air that Beijing had experienced during the Olympic Games in 2008. “Where is the 2008 air gone? Was that natural air or man-made? Now we have our answer.”
Another made the point, however, that western countries were free of environmental problems because they exported them all to China.
“Go to a US supermarket and you’ll see how all the paper, all the chopsticks, all the wooden furniture, even the toothpicks, are made in China.”
The European Commission estimates that China produced 9.7 million kilotons of carbon dioxide in 2011, nearly double the United States’s 5.42 million kilotons. The Chinese cement industry alone produced 820,000 kilotons that year.
China has been the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases for years and, while there is growing recognition of the problem, there is still resentment at how, per capita, the US is much higher, given that its population is 4.5 times smaller than China’s.
There is no sign that the government wants to slow urbanisation. On the contrary, as many as 300 million people are expected to move from the countryside by 2030 to join the 600 million already living in cities, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Environmental degradation is increasingly a political issue, as people worry about the impact on their children, combined with the vague feeling that the real cost is borne by the people who have to breathe the air, not those who produce the vile smog.
One person wrote that gross domestic product growth was like a ladder for cadres to climb.
“When they get rich, they emigrate, leaving the people here to suffer. China is crying.”