Tens of thousands of “smog refugees” have reportedly fled China’s pollution-stricken north after the country was hit by its latest “airpocalyse” forcing almost half a billion people to live under a blanket of toxic fumes.
Huge swaths of north and central China have been living under a pollution “red alert” since last Friday when a dangerous cocktail of pollutants transformed the skies into a yellow and charcoal-tinted haze.
Greenpeace claimed the calamity had affected a population equivalent to those of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined with some 460m people having to breathe either hazardous pollution or heavy levels of smog in recent days.
Lauri Myllyvirta, a Beijing-based Greenpeace activist who has been chronicling the red alert on Twitter, said that in an attempt to shield his lungs he was avoiding going outside and using two air purifiers and an industrial grade dust mask “that makes me look like Darth Vader”.
“You just try to insulate yourself from the air as much as possible,” said Myllyvirta, a coal and air pollution expert.
According to reports in the Chinese media, flights to some pollution-free regions have been packed as a result of the smog.
Ctrip, China’s leading online travel agent, said it expected 150,000 travellers to head abroad this month in a bid to outrun the smog. Top destinations include Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the Maldives.
Jiang Aoshuang, one of Beijing’s “smog refugees”, told the state-run Global Times she had skipped town with her husband and 10-year-old son in order to spare their lungs.
Jiang’s family made for Chongli, a smog-free ski resort about three hours north-west of the capital, only to find it packed with other fugitives seeking sanctuary from the pollution.
“It really felt like a refugee camp,” she was quoted as saying.
Yang Xinglin, who also fled to Chongli, said she had requested time off from her job at a state-owned real estate firm so she did not have to inhale the smog.
“You ask me why I left Beijing? It’s because I want to live,” Yang, 27, told the Guardian.
Emma Zhang, a third “smog refugee”, told the South China Morning Post she and her young son had swapped their home in the western city of Chengdu, which has also been blighted by severe pollution, for a hotel in the temperate south-western province of Yunnan.
“I finally saw the blue sky. It was wonderful!” she said.
Li Dongke, a 27-year-old Beijinger, said her entire family had decamped to Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, or the tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea. “It’s terrible,” she complained of the current pollution crisis.
Fleeing the danger zone has not been completely straightforward for China’s environmental exiles.
The China Daily reported that smog had paralysed airports in Beijing and across the country’s northern industrial heartland in cities such as Tianjin and Shijiazhuang, making escape impossible.
Beijing’s domestic Nanyuan airport cancelled all flights on Tuesday while the Beijing Capital international airport cancelled at least 273 flights.
Myllyvirta, the Greenpeace activist, said his group had been warning of a winter smog crisis since July when it began noticing the government was pumping economic stimulus into heavily-polluting industries such as cement and steel.
“A big part of what happened is that the steel price went up when the government started a huge wave of construction projects to stimulate the economy,” he said.
One consequence was that a large number of smaller, poorly-regulated steel producers had “gone on a tear” leading to increased emissions that were now blackening the skies over northern China.
Myllyvirta said he was convinced the future looked brighter for China’s environment, despite its latest airpocalypse.
A fall in the use of coal and air pollution were likely over the next three to five years as more urgent steps were taken to restructure the economy and preserve the environment.
For now, however, some locals saw temporary or permanent exile as their only option while many outsiders refused to come at all.
“People are definitely thinking about how to get out and … companies are complaining that it is hard to recruit talent [to come to China],” Myllyvirta said.
“People don’t want to live in places with terribly polluted air.”
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The United Kingdom went a record six days without burning coal this past year — marking the longest recorded period since 1881.
The news comes from a new study by biomass power company Drax and Imperial College London. The study also found the UK received 50.2% of its energy from sources cleaner than coal like solar, wind, biomass, nuclear, and hydropower, and imported low-carbon energy from France between July and September this year.
The study focused on energy markets trends within the UK to see which types of energy are in higher demand.
Read More: These 3 Cities Run on Renewable Energy
In 2010 energy from low-carbon emission sources were 20% of the country's energy market. The jump to more than half the country’s energy in just six years is promising, showing that a break from carbon is possible.
“Coal plants have been pushed off the system by competition from gas, nuclear and renewables,” the report stated. "5 May 2016 was a historic day, the first time since 1881 that Britain burnt no coal to produce its electricity."
Twenty-six percent of lower-carbon power came from nuclear energy produced in the UK. This was the largest contributor to cutting down on coal. Solar (10%), wind (5%), and biomass (4%) followed as the most commonly used.
One-quarter of coal power plants were shut down in the last year across the UK as well.
“Cleaner energy has reached a record high, and carbon emissions from electricity hit a record low,” said Andy Koss, CEO, DRAX.
This is great progress after the UK
government set a goal to close the country’s remaining coal power plants by
Meanwhile, the US's clean energy prospects have grown murkier, as citizens wonder what President-elect Trump will do with the Paris Agreement, and whether he will follow through on his campaign promise to expand US coal production.
As the US awaits a new environmental era, good news on climate change from across the pond is a welcome respite and glimmer of hope for the planet.
Air-pollution can cause chemical reactions that have negative effects on the environment and individual’s health. It has the ability to create acidic compounds which in turn may cause acid rain and damage the environment.
According to research, “air pollution has both acute and chronic effects on human health, affecting a number of different systems and organs. It ranges from minor upper respiratory irritation to chronic respiratory and heart disease, lung cancer, acute respiratory infections in children and chronic bronchitis in adults, aggravating pre-existing heart and lung disease, or asthmatic attacks.”
Air pollution is a combination of solid particles and gases in the air. It occurs when the air contains a harmful amount of gases, dust, fumes and odor (Conserve Energy Future).
Radon-Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that can seep into your home through the foundation and cracks in the basement. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer,” and “is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.”
Your Lungs- Hazardous air exposure can trigger a variety of issues pertaining to your lungs. According to research it can trigger new cases of asthma, exacerbate a previously-existing respiratory illness and provoke chronic illnesses which include lung cancer, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Tobacco Smoke- Tobacco smoke is one of the most harmful air pollutions. Whether you smoke, or you surround yourself with people who smoke, you are at risk for a wide range of medical issues. It spreads harmful chemicals and has the ability to cause cancer, throat irritation, asthma and burning eyes.
Indoor Air Pollution- This may be the most dangerous air pollution as individuals are exposed to contamination at close proximity. Some of these contaminations are due to animal waste, wood, agricultural residue and charcoal. Prolonged exposure to this pollution can lead to respiratory infections, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.Home Page - Pollution - Air-pollution
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