As China enters 2014 reeling from one of the worst polluted winters in recent years, experts from two major research institutes have openly disagreed over what is the main culprit behind the capital city’s dismal air pollution.

Please consider Cars or coal? Scientists split over main culprit of Beijing’s air pollution

The Chinese capital has for many years suffered from serious air pollution. Primary sources of pollutants include exhaust emission from Beijing’s more than five million motor vehicles, coal burning in neighbouring regions, dust storms from the north and local construction dust. A particularly severe smog engulfed the city for weeks in early 2013, elevating public awareness to unprecedented levels and prompting the government to roll out emergency measures.

A Chinese couple wears protective masks while going around the Tiananmen Square on December 7, 2013. Photo: EPA

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the country’s top research body, released a study on December 30 saying motor vehicle emissions were only responsible for less than 4 per cent of Beijing’s PM2.5, the most health-threatening fine air pollutants. Instead, the study identified fossil fuel burning as the largest contributor of PM2.5, contrary to popular beliefs that the nearly 5.5 million cars clogging the capital’s streets were chiefly to blame for its air pollution.

However, barely 24 hours later, Pan Tao, president of the Beijing Municipal Research Institute of Environmental Protection, openly challenged the findings, telling People’s Daily online that motor vehicle emissions were “undoubtedly” the major source of Beijing’s air pollution.

The CAS study analysed air samples in the capital on a seasonal basis, and found that pollutants generated from industrial production and coal-burning the source of Beijing’s PM2.5 pollutants. According to the study, coal burning, industrial pollution and secondary inorganic aerosol, a catch-all term for inorganic particulates formed as a product of complex chemical reactions among pollutants, account respectively for 18 per cent, 25 per cent and 26 per cent of the air pollution at large.

Combined waste incineration and motor vehicle emissions are responsible for 4 per cent of the hazardous PM2.5 fine particles in Beijing’s air, it says.

But the academy’s conclusion appears self-contradictory as motor vehicle emissions are themselves a major contributor to secondary inorganic aerosol, argued Pan Tao from the Beijing institute. Moreover, Pan asserted, it was simply impossible that car exhaust could account for as little as 4 per cent of Beijing’s main air pollutants.

Chinese Hospital Opens Smog Clinic

The Huffington Post reports Chinese Hospital Opens Smog Clinic To Combat Worsening Air Quality

A hospital in southwest China has opened a clinic for patients who are suffering symptoms related to smog, a doctor said Wednesday, highlighting how big a concern pollution has become for Chinese.

One public health expert suggested hospitals may follow suit to cash in on China’s notorious smog.

The rising middle class in China has become increasingly fed up with air pollution that has accompanied the country’s spectacular economic growth. The term PM2.5, which refers to tiny particles in the air that can penetrate deep into the lungs, has become a common part of the vocabulary.

On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, which measures air quality, gave it an index reading of 160 — or “unhealthy” — based on a PM2.5 reading of 73 micrograms per cubic meter. A safe level under WHO guidelines is 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

The Chinese reading, which also takes into account other pollutants and has a different classification system, came out as “lightly polluted.”

Pollution in China’s Heilongjiang Province

Local residents travel on a tricycle in the smog in Harbin, northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, on October 21, 2013. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Worries in the Path of China’s Air

It’s not just China suffering from China’s pollution. Please consider Worries in the Path of China’s Air

When China’s skies darken with pollution, it is not the only nation to suffer.

Soot, ozone-forming compounds and other pollutants from China can blow east to Korea and Japan. Ultimately, some even reach the west coast of the United States, scientists say.

Other nations generate pollution too, of course, so the wafting of bad air from China adds to local problems. China’s emissions worry countries in the path of the plumes, but in a region where political tensions often run high, international solutions are largely elusive.

 Recent research in Japan suggests that China’s contribution to average annual fine-particle pollution ranges from 40 percent in the Tokyo area to 60 percent in Kyushu, which is closer to China, according to Hiroshi Tanimoto, who heads the global atmospheric chemistry section at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies. On average, about 10 percent to 20 percent of Japan’s springtime ozone comes from Chinese emissions, he said.

“Transport of air pollutants from China enhances the background level entering into Japan,” Dr. Tanimoto said in an email. The impact to effect on Korea is even greater, he added.

China’s main effect on pollution in the United States, however, involves ozone, scientists say.

China, which accounts for more than half of the world’s coal consumption, is trying to reduce its pollution for the sake of its worried citizens. It has cut its emissions of sulfur dioxide, which can lead to acid rain and fine-particle creation; it is rapidly building clean- energy plants and setting some limits on coal; and it orders reduced car travel on days of bad smog. But its fast-growing economy makes the pollution problem hard to solve.

Whereas Europe had success in working to reduce cross-border air pollution in the 1970s and ’80s, “there’s really been no history of that regional cooperation in Asia,” said Loren Cass, an associate professor of political science at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

China to Invest in Air Pollution Treatment

XinhuaNet reports China to invest heavily in air pollution treatment

China needs to invest 1.75 trillion yuan (290 billion U.S. dollars) for its air pollution treatment plan from 2013 to 2017, an environment expert has estimated.

Wang Jinnan, deputy head of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, said at the 4th Caixin Summit in Beijing that the investment would drive up GDP by nearly 2 trillion yuan and create over 2 million jobs.

According to Wang, 36.7 percent of the investment, or 640 billion yuan should go on cleaning up industry, followed by 490 billion yuan (28.2 percent) on cleaner energy sources. Cleaning up motor vehicles will absorb 210 billion yuan.

The State Council issued the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan in September to control PM2.5 (airborne particles of less than 2.5 microns diameter).

The action plan requires PM2.5 in populated regions and metropolises to be reduced significantly by 2017. The annual average of PM2.5 in Beijing would be expected to drop to 60 micrograms per cubic meter.

Broken Window Fallacy Yet Again

Did you catch the huge flaw in the above article?

Pollution cleanup does not contribute to GDP. At best, it shows prior GDP was overstated by the amount of cleanup necessary.  The GDP improvement thesis is just another version of the broken window fallacy.

Simply put, broken windows, hurricanes, tsunamis, and pollution do not add to GDP.

Benefits To China’s Smog?!

Even more preposterous than the broken window fallacy is the notion there are Benefits of a Smoggy China.

Northeast China was struck by the most severe smog attack this past week, sending air quality index in more than 40 cities above the 300 hazardous level and forcing schools in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province to shut down. But instead of halting their outdoor modeling show, organizers of a jewelry exhibition in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province had all the models wear face masks on the runway.

an expert from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection just claimed that the smog is there to stay for ten to twenty years. Amid the gloomy outlook, however, there’s some silver-lining—CCTV, China’s national broadcaster, has identified five benefits of the smog: first, it has made people more united, because smog is a common enemy everywhere in China. Second, it has made people more equal, because both the rich and the poor have to inhale the same polluted air. Third, it has made the Chinese more clear-headed as to the price that the nation has to pay for becoming the “world’s factory.” Fourth, it has made the Chinese more humorous. Sarcasm abounds when it comes to the topic of smog, and “that sense of humor is the source of strength for defeating the smog.” Fifth, it has made the Chinese more knowledgeable, as people become educated on concepts like PM 2.5, important historical events like the London Great Smog of 1952, and even English words like “haze” and “smog.”

The Party’s mouth piece, The Global Times, has suggested that smog may be also beneficiary to military defense.

Fashion Show Images

In all, displayed “56 smog is beautiful images

Mike “Mish” Shedlock