Thursday, December 3, 2015

Smoggy Beijing

Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
A thick blanket of choking smog had cloaked Beijing over the weekend. On Tuesday, the concentration of PM 2.5 – harmful microscopic particles that penetrate deep into the lungs – soared as high as 598 micrograms per cubic meter.

This reading issued by the US embassy, dwarfs the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization which is just 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period. The Beijing air is “hazardous” by the standards of the US Environmental Protection Agency. According to the EPA, readings of above 300 are “extremely rare” in their country and typically are seen only during major events such as forest fires.

Authorities in Beijing issued an orange alert and ordered the closure of 2,100 highly polluting factories, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported, and of course, advised citizens to stay indoors.

On Chinese social media, some people have questioned why the government have not issued the highest warning – a red alert – which would restrict the number of cars on the road and shut down schools completely.

Given the above scenario, Chinese President Xi Jinping is taking the stage in Paris for the UN Conference of Parties (COP21) summit, which aims to strike a deal to limit global warming.

Interestingly, I read that the Paris Climate Talks (November 30-December 11, 2015) will emit 300,000 tons of CO2. I sure hope the talks are worth it!

I am not putting my hopes up though. I don’t even believe that the one hundred and ninety-five governments are entertaining any illusions whatsoever that there will be concrete commitments in Paris. It will be all talk and no action. As usual.

Just look at China. In case you didn’t know, China are the world's worst polluters. Their cities are swathed in smog, the water is polluted and the economy is hugely reliant on coal, the dirtiest form of energy.

And yesterday, a devastating Global Warming Policy Foundation report by Patricia Adams had said in so many words that China do not intend to sacrifice economic growth by reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.

[Note: Adams, an economist and executive director of Toronto-based Probe International, and she has been working with the Chinese environmental movement since the mid-Eighties – she is recognized as one of the West’s leading experts on the Chinese environmental economy].

Yet being the optimist that I am, I continue to hope. Still, there is this nagging feeling that I am going to be disappointed again.

On Wednesday evening, I was in KL’s Jalan Imbi to deliver my CC#4 titled “From India with Love”. I was voted Best Speaker and indeed, it was a good speech! And a good meeting too!


No comments: