By Melanie Hart and Jing Shen
The air in Beijing has been a hot topic this past year. Beijing residents are generally quite stoic about local air pollution, and willing to turn a blind eye to differences between the grey air they see outside and the “blue sky days” the local government is reporting.
Last fall, however, the situation reached a breaking point. Beijing was hit with two waves of unusually severe pollution that grounded planes at China’s national airport. But the local government, instead of acknowledging the severity, claimed the city was only experiencing “minor” pollution.
Local people could see with their own eyes that was not the case. They could also see the data. The Beijing government’s statistics were only tracking air particles down to the 10 micron (micrometer) level. That left the more dangerous, smaller particles (2.5 microns in diameter and below) out of their statistics. In this case, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was providing its own air quality reports that included the more dangerous PM 2.5 particles. Beijing residents compared the two reports, declared the local government reports invalid, and demanded a new monitoring system.
Those demands seem to be working. The Chinese ...