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Airpocalypse Now (in Shanghai)

The airpocalypse turns its sights on Shanghai


Early December, the Yangtze River Delta became the newest victim of China’s infamous smog. Cold-blooded, this serial killer, Smog traveled from areas in northern China such as Beijing and Harbin, and has decided to turn to Shanghai, Pearl of the Orient, into the “Huangpu River Rim”. According to Beijing News, several companies including Unilever and Autodesk notified their employees that they ought to work from home.  Nanjing in Jiangsu Province asked middle schools, elementary schools, and kindergartens to cancel all classes. Why has the smog chosen the prosperous Yangtze River Delta as its new playground?

Shanghai’s meteorological department concluded that the smog appeared because unfavorable circumstances occurred at the same time: meteorological conditions, pollutants from northern China, and the incessant accumulation of local pollutants.  Wang Yuesi, a researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, thinks the most significant factor of this airpocalypse is excessive emission of pollutants. According to Wang, the main inorganic compound of Beijing’s smog is sulfate (30 percent), whereas the main inorganic compound  of Shanghai’s smog is nitrate (30%). This means that compared to Beijing, Shanghai’s pollutants are more closely associated with petrol, car emissions, burning coal, and generating electricity.

Reuters attributes Shanghai’s airpocalypse to Beijing’s crackdown on steel production to combat pollution in the north:

“Steel output fell sharply in Hebei at the end of 2013 but rose in Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang provinces, all near Shanghai, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

‘We’ve seen production in Hebei dropping quite dramatically,’ said Graeme Train, a Shanghai-based commodities analyst with Macquarie Group.

‘It could be that they reduce pollution in Hebei and it just pops up again here in Shanghai. What it does tell us is that China has a hell of a lot of steel capacity.'”

In fact, in addition to the steel industry, the cement, copper, and aluminum industries have also been on the rise in the Yangtze River Delta. It seems that Beijing’s smog has gotten (a bit) better, but all over the rest of China smog continues to be an ever-growing problem.

Image courtesy of Flickr user zhangmirror.


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