Contrary to everything we know as grizzled veterans outfitted with face masks and a wary disposition, the latest news tells us that Beijing’s air quality improved so much over the course of 2017 that it is now the best it’s been in five years.
The local chapter of the Ministry of Environmental Protection makes the bold claim in its year-end report that describes air quality in the city that inspired the term “Airpocalypse” to have improved in several areas, sometimes drastically.
Last year saw a year-on-year increase of 28 additional days of excellent air quality while simultaneously decreasing the number of severely polluted days by 16 over the same period.
Also, daily levels of PM2.5 have decreased to just 58 micrograms per square meter on average, signifying a 21 percent year-on-year drop that meets the national cut-off level of 60.
Also decreasing are last year’s average levels of sulfur dioxide (by 21 percent to 8 micrograms per square meter), nitrous dioxide (by 4 percent to 46 micrograms per square meter), and PM10 (by 9 percent to 84 micrograms per square meter).
Compared to 2013, when record-taking first began, Beijing increased its excellent air quality days by 50 and decreased its average PM2.5 levels by 31 percent last year. Another remarkable statistic shows that November 2017’s PM2.5 levels experienced a 37 percent year-on-year decline.
But if you don’t want to follow the news, there’s another metric that demonstrates the improvement of Beijing’s air quality: falling sales for air filtration masks and air purifiers.
China News reports that retailers are complaining about sluggish sales for anti-smog equipment, some even saying they are unable to liquidate their products out of lack of interest.
This may all be too incredible to accept, but we have to add that Beijing hasn’t issued a red alert for smog since 2016. And, to appeal to your short-term memory, the capital has been relatively free of polluted days over the past few weeks.
The type of blue skies we’ve been recently experiencing are on par with what we’ve come to associate with the APEC or the OBOR summit, but the next such event – the state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron – isn’t scheduled until next week.
Replacing Beijing’s gray dreary skies for clear blue ones isn’t so farfetched when you consider the numerous policies implemented to promote a cleaner environment. Beijing has implemented (or has plans for) a ban on coal, a ban on fireworks, a ban on outdoor barbecues (remember that?), shut down factories, and implemented local restrictions on traffic and construction.
In fact, Beijing has been so driven to clean up its air that we’ve seen outlandish proposals of every kind that range from anti-smog share bikes to a smog-free tower to a plan that would have some 10 million residents standing outside waving a fan (no, we’re not kidding).
We’d probably be more optimistic for a cleaner Beijing if it weren’t for a daily ritual that had us waking up to a dreary, dull haze. That, as well as a public warning not to get our hopes up this winter that doesn’t seem that relevant anymore.
With prior reports suggesting that this winter would be a smoggy one for Beijing, we’re only too happy to welcome cold air masses to blow away the smog (like the -8 degree Celsius temperatures coming this Thursday). It’s too early to drop our guarded optimism, but we hope Beijing will lose its reputation for having the worst air in the world – or, at least, the solar system.
More stories from this author here.
E-Mail: charlesliu1 (at) qq (dot) com