Chinese officials are blaming global warming for the pollution-induced smog currently enveloping their cities.
Chinese officials claim that unusually warm winter weather and high rainfall contributed to the buildup of smog over most of the country, but independent scientists don’t agree.
“Looking at the long-term global warming trends, meteorological conditions are becoming an increasingly important factor in the formation of fog and smog,” Song Lianchun, the director of China’s Meteorological Administration, told Reuters. “In fact, our country’s overall climate and weather conditions are not very conducive for the dispersal of fog and smog – that is based on science.”
China officially blamed “unfavorable weather conditions” for the extreme levels of air pollution that hit large parts of northern China in late December. This created a smog that left more than 460 million gasping for air across most of northeast China.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Joint Program on the Policy of Global Change think China’s pollution woes are largely due to the country’s reliance on coal power. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, and is planning to double down on it. Of the 2,400 coal-fired power plants under construction or being planned around the world, 1,171 will be built in China.
MIT scientists recommended that China solve its smog problem by replacing coal power with natural gas. Natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide (CO2) and pollutants of coal power, and is already cheaper than coal in many locations in the U.S. due to fracking.
The smog forced China to implement an emergency anti-pollution plan for the 10.7 million who live in the city of Shijiazhuang. School was cancelled due to the pollution. Chinese government officials used emergency plans to shut down factories and take cars off the road to slightly abate the issue.
China even created an environmental police force earlier in January to crack down on open-air barbecues, garbage incineration and burning wood, to reduce pollution. The green police will enforce school and business closures on smoggy days, and can cancel plane flights and shut down highways to reduce pollution.
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