The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau triumphantly released a report recently that said local air quality has improved over the first four months of 2018. And yet, when we hear about this complimentary report, we can’t help but recall all the times that the sky above Beijing was less than ideal.
While average year-on-year PM2.5 levels decreased by 22 percent to 59 micrograms per square meter, the capital saw its days with good air quality increase four days to 77 days between January and April. During the same period, heavily polluted days decreased from eight to seven.
The good news comes despite a 21 percent increase in local PM2.5 levels to 64 micrograms per square meter in April as well as 20 percent increase in PM2.5 and PM10 levels in March, resulting in a good-to-bad daily air quality ratio of just 51 percent.
Placing those statistics in a side-by-side comparison doesn’t make the PM2.5 decrease that impressive, not when considering the spring sandstorms that pummeled Beijing and caused AQI levels to exceed 400.
Is the air quality in Beijing actually improving? Although the news certainly suggests this is the case, it’s difficult to make comparisons when the units keep changing.
Instead of a quarterly report, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau reported a 19 percent drop in PM2.5 levels between January and May of 2016, something they then applied to a ten-month span between January and October of 2016 when the same local authority reported a year-on-year PM2.5 decrease of 9 percent over the same time.
Just by looking out the window, the simplest explanation is that air quality is definitely improving in Beijing; some reports suggest that Beijing is improving its air pollution at a much faster rate than post-industrial UK.
Here’s the final statistic for you: even though Beijing has successfully met its 2013 State Council-mandated goal of keeping its average 2017 level of PM2.5 to just 58 micrograms per square meter, this is still nearly six times the recommended level given by the World Health Organization.
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E-Mail: charlesliu1 (at) qq (dot) com