Northern China choked under some of the worst smog this year today, with
Thick haze blanketed cities across the country after President Xi Jinping arrived in
Concentration of PM2.5, tiny airborne particles which embed deeply in the lungs, reached more than 560 micrograms per cubic metre in the capital, according to the
Levels in several cities in neighbouring Hebei province were also well above 500, official figures showed, more than twenty times the World Health Organisation’s advised limit for daily exposure.
“You can’t even see people standing directly in front of you,” wrote one disgruntled commuter on Chinese Sina Weibo. “It feels like even the subway station is full of haze.”
Several hundred freeway toll gates were forced to close in nearby
Visibility in the capital was so poor Monday that the tops of skyscrapers were largely obscured from view at ground level.
Many pedestrians chose to forgo masks, even though PM2.5 can play a role in heart disease and lung ailments such as emphysema and cancer.
The pollution has been linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, becoming a major source of popular discontent with the government.
It also recalled intense pollution – dubbed the “airpocalypse” – that hit the capital in 2013 when readings approached 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre.
Such outbreaks are common across
Xi is in
It pledged last year to peak carbon dioxide output by “around 2030” – suggesting at least another decade of growing emissions.
Most of the country’s carbon emissions come from coal burning in power factories and homes – which spikes in winter along with demand for heating, which also causes smog.
“Will this long-awaited conference make your life different?” Xinhua asked its Twitter followers in a post linking the climate talks with the heavy smog.
“If the imperial capital is already polluted to such a level, shouldn’t the environmental protection bureau leaders resign?” said one Weibo user.