Pollution the great leveler for Beijing.

Even before the sun starts to rise over this megalopolis of 21 million people, you can sense a miserable lung day approaching, the lights from nearby skyscrapers enveloped in a gray cloud. China has many challenges, but air pollution is one that, if left unaddressed, will surely trip up its economic growth, kill its people and derail the Communist Party’s policy of “opening up” to the world. Tourism in Beijing has dropped from a year ago, at least partly because of worldwide publicity about smog. A recent study estimated that the average life expectancy in North China had dropped by 5.5 years because of air pollution generated by coal power production. The smog spread across the eastern and northern parts of the country, smothering cities such as Shanghai whose residents thought they were immune. Wealthy Chinese now regularly schedule “lung-cleaning trips,” with Thailand’s Phuket Island and Indonesia’s Bali as top destinations, according to Chinese tourism authorities. To combat this pernicious plague, the Chinese government states that it will spend $1.7 trillion yuan ($281 billion) by 2017 to tackle air pollution. In the interim, local governments have closed factories, fined polluters and even closed freeways on days when the smog is dangerous or “beyond index.” The Chinese say that the problem is caused primarily by weather inversions, auto emissions and industrial coal burning. Yet China has no comprehensive system of monitoring, permitting and regulating sources of air pollution. Unlike most environmental agencies in the United States, it can’t track a pollution problem back to its source or sources and correct it.Even before the sun starts to rise over this megalopolis of 21 million people, you can sense a miserable lung day approaching, the lights from nearby skyscrapers enveloped in a gray cloud. China has many challenges, but air pollution is one that, if left unaddressed, will surely trip up its economic growth, kill its people and derail the Communist Party’s policy of “opening up” to the world. Tourism in Beijing has dropped from a year ago, at least partly because of worldwide publicity about smog. A recent study estimated that the average life expectancy in North China had dropped by 5.5 years because of air pollution generated by coal power production. The smog spread across the eastern and northern parts of the country, smothering cities such as Shanghai whose residents thought they were immune. Wealthy Chinese now regularly schedule “lung-cleaning trips,” with Thailand’s Phuket Island and Indonesia’s Bali as top destinations, according to Chinese tourism authorities. To combat this pernicious plague, the Chinese government states that it will spend $1.7 trillion yuan ($281 billion) by 2017 to tackle air pollution. In the interim, local governments have closed factories, fined polluters and even closed freeways on days when the smog is dangerous or “beyond index.” The Chinese say that the problem is caused primarily by weather inversions, auto emissions and industrial coal burning. Yet China has no comprehensive system of monitoring, permitting and regulating sources of air pollution. Unlike most environmental agencies in the United States, it can’t track a pollution problem back to its source or sources and correct it.

Source, USA Today

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