We don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Beijing has a bit of a smog problem. Videos of clouds of particulate matter-filled doom are constantly cropping up online. The most recent airpocalypse looked like a moving wall of dark magic encroaching on the metropolis, a witchcraft conjuring of respiratory ridiculousness.
Beijing’s authorities already have a weird and arbitrary alert system in place, but there aren’t really any solid measures to sort out this smog, most of which comes from construction, coal burning and traffic. Now it appears that they have assembled a crack team of anti-smog police who will go around shaking their fists at anyone barbecuing too aggressively.
According to Reuters, open-air cookery, garbage incineration, biomass burning and dust kicked up by traffic on the roads – but not the traffic itself – will be monitored in person.
It’s not particularly clear what anyone can do about dusty roads, except perhaps tarmac over them of course. The team could arm themselves with enormous vacuum cleaners to take the smog-making particles out of the air, sort of like a cheaper and less special effects-laden version of the Ghostbusters.
Fines or prosecution could be placed on individuals or companies that are excessively pumping too much nastiness into the air. However, based on just the extremely high average levels of toxins in the air, everyone and everywhere is liable for punitive measures.
China is one of the world’s most prolific users of coal, and at present, they are the planet’s number one producer of greenhouse gases. However, shortly after signing up to the Paris Agreement, coal use in China flatlined, and it’s clear that they are heavily investing in renewable energy sources – particularly wind power.
With America possibly set to take a highly regressive step back from its recent legacy on climate change mitigation and environmental protection, China is primed to take the lead on these issues. If their coal use begins to decline, there’s a chance that Beijing’s awful smog will begin to subside.
However, as in many cities around the world, diesel vehicles are an enormous problem. Even when they’re not helping to create smog, they’re still pumping largely unregulated toxic emissions into the environment.
In 2012, one million people in China died from air pollution-related illnesses. This new team of anti-smog troopers may help a little in some way, but there’s a lot more to be done before the clouds of death hanging over Beijing are consigned to history.
In fact, the solution to the problem already exists. In order to make the sky blue again for a national parade, the capital banned all traffic from its inner sanctum – and it worked like a dream. Perhaps they should revisit this on a more permanent basis.