The following 2 pictures are views from my building on a smoggy day and a (relatively) clear day here in Beijing. I’ve only been here since September, and I’ve heard that the smog is even worse in the summer. (Beijing also gets bad dust storms in early spring, due to dust from increasing desertification in Inner Mongolia blowing through the city, but that’s a different story).
According to someone who has lived in Beijing for the last several years, Beijing’s air quality has actually improved over the last several years. This is largely a result of the local government banning the burning of coal within the city (previously coal was a common heating and cooking fuel among less affluent residents of the city – I’m not sure what they’re using now). Although that was a major step, car ownership, traffic, and traffic jams have only been increasing lately and are likely to continue to do so unless the city makes a serious push towards encouraging public transportation, as discussed in my last post. Fortunately, Beijing has an incentive to do so with the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics here; presumably they don’t want their athletes to all collapse from asthma, nor do they want to televise to the world a sporting event where blue skies are nowhere to be seen. Considering that summer is the worst season for smog, Beijing clearly has a lot of work to do in a very short time.