【In Beijing the modern city beyond the Imperial City’s north gate is visible under a clear sky during the period assessed 2013-16.】
Beijing is slowly shedding its image as the world’s most polluted city. In 2013 it ranked as the 40th worst city for the particulate PM2.5 in the World Health Organisation global database. Four years on thanks in part to a crackdown on polluters it stands in 187th place.
Air pollution in the 62 Chinese cities tracked by the WHO dropped by an average of 30% between 2013 and 2016. China’s air pollution problems are often blamed on the country’s rapid industrial growth but the problems probably date back to the 1950s.
In air pollution terms China is two countries divided by a line that follows the Huai river. North of this line average winter temperatures are below freezing and here free or heavily subsidised coal was provided for home heating. This led to the development of poorly controlled coal-powered district heating systems in towns and cities north of the river.
The laudable aim of providing home heating was disastrous for China’s air. Average particle pollution north of the Huai river was 40% greater than the south and this extra pollution caused an estimated three-year reduction in average life expectancy.
Understandably a small but growing group of Chinese urbanites have been moving south for cleaner air.
quokkaZ 4d ago +16
China should be congratulated for such rapid improvement. It also should be congratulated for moving towards the best solution to replace coal in district heating:
CGN to construct China’s first nuclear-powered heating project
It's far better than burning stuff - coal gas or trees - and the only realistic genuinely low GHG emission solution for district heating.
azoicera 4d ago
Meanwhile in a democracy facing the very same problem things remain unchanged if not worse: India now has 9 of 10 most polluted cities in the world. Who doesn't like a government that delivers?
westhaditsday 4d ago
Great news! Tributes to all scientists and policy makers to make this happen. Still a long way to go so keep up the good work!
SFromNl 4d ago
It's getting harder and harder to not see the world's paradigm shifting.
jhvance 4d ago
The coal-related air pollution near ground level in northern China is not generally caused by power generating facilities but by the many widely-distributed district heating systems built and operated by local authorities which are routinely cash-strapped. Those systems' coal-fired furnaces are old have relatively short exhaust stacks with absolutely no scrubbing installed and are not well-maintained to begin with; the local governments minimize annual operating cost by purchasing the cheapest (and thus lowest-quality) coal possible so the individual furnaces emit high volumes of pollutants especially particulates (the small pm2.5 variety).