Sunday, July 27, 2008

Smoggy Cloggy Skies for Beijing Olympics

Most people adventuring over to China for next month's Games of the XXIX Olympiad, have no idea of the magnitude of Beijing's air pollution challenges. The Olympic Village for the athletes opened in a dark cloud cover. Athletes are incorporating preparation for breathing issues into their training regimens as the head of their Olympic teams - including the USA, hand out protective face masks even as the facilities boast an acupuncture and top of the line nail salon, tea house Chinese style and produce markets. Australian athletes are being given the option of going home and not competing in the Olympics over the air pollution hazards, the Deputy Chief of Mission for the Aussies confirmed. Gold medals are at stake, even though one may not see the ceremony if standing more than a few hundred yards away. There is not a Gold Medal in asthma attacks. China would rather deal with the air pollution issue as minor, then point towards the clean up of their 100,000 tons of slimy algae as a temporary triumph in their war on water pollution. Sunday, as evidenced in the last picture above shows the worst day of air quality in the last 6 days. (Reuters photo)
Humid weather conditions and low winds have meant efforts to clear the city's notoriously polluted skies have so far had only patchy results at best.

Pollution is one of the biggest question marks hanging over the games which are due to open on August 8.

On Sunday a ceremony to open the athletes' village was overshadowed by a pall of pollution said to be the worst seen in the past month.

Around the Olympic Green area, the centrepiece for the games, visibility was reduced to about 1km.
Nothing like an urgent last minute crackdown on Chinese factories and construction projects to make a valiant attempt to hope the air clears out in less than two weeks. They so missed seeing Al's An Inconvenient truth on a pirated DVD to know that two weeks before a world event to take these types of measure is like draining the Pacific Ocean one thimble at a time. It also puts those who need the money out of work for the duration while China puts its best face forward to the world. Earlier this year, ordering everyone ride a bike or walk in Beijing was deemed a big success, but had no lasting effect on the air quality nor an increase in subway riders or other public shared transportation.

What is more exasperating is the utter denial and overindulgence in groupthink by Chinese bureaucrats as to the cause of the smog. The official word lists the gray cruddy air as fog at this time of year. Problem is the fog/smog is getting worse. It is no secret that China is one of the top three polluters on the planet, along with India & America, as they strive for first world status economically through manufacturing and exporting the goods to the world on behalf of multinational companies, many in the USA. America is encouraging this and the seeds sewn won't be clear because the air is so thick. Imagine NBC trying to get a distance shot in this for a marathon or other outdoor events involving longer ranges.

Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing city Environmental Protection Bureau, said at the weekend: “Good air quality does not necessarily mean blue sky. You might not be able to see things in a bathroom, but you would not conclude that it’s due to pollution.” He added: “We should judge whether there is pollution by scientific statistics, not by what our eyes can see.”
But the pollution readings make for grim statistics. A week ago, it looked as if the slew of drastic measures taken by the capital to try to clear the air before the Olympics open on August 8 might be having some effect. With half the cars taken off the streets, construction ordered to halt and many factories closed for miles around, the air pollution index for particulate matter – a major airborne pollutant – was at a reasonable 67.

The Beijing billboard on the bottom blocks the view in the distance. (AP)
The humidity is topping 70%, mixing the air vapor with the toxic chemicals in the air. People with respiratory issues are hearing recommendations to stay indoors and not over exert in these conditions. Now, recommendations of bans for 90% of the cars in Beijing to be ordered idle. Some Beijing residents don't quite see the problem, cough, even though in 11 days, the Olympics begin and George Bush is coming to see the Opening in a sea of smog, er, Chinese fog.

Air out or brush up on the causation and other factors in China's Environment and the Challenges of Sustainable Development. Kristen A. Day gives an early look at the issues besetting or forestalling China's ability to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

1 comment:

Sarah B said...

Worth a little laugh - the McCain campaign in a little satire of the funny kind.

tsk tsk tsk