Changing China

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Will China make the world green?

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Workers remove mine slag at an aluminium plant in Zibo, Shandong province December 6, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Joschka Fischer was never one to mince words when he was Germany's foreign minister in the late '90s and early noughts. So it is not overly surprising that he has painted a picture in a new post of a world with only two powers -- the United States and China -- and an ineffective and divided Europe on the sidelines.

More controversial, however, is his view that China will not only grow into the world's most important market over the coming years, but will determine what the world produces and consumes -- and that that will be green.

Fischer, who was leader of  Germany's Green Party, reckons that due to its sheer size and needed GDP growth, China will have to pursue a green economy. Without that, he writes in his Project Syndicate post, China will quickly reach limits to growth with disastrous ecological and, as a result, political consequences.

This will have serious consequences on the the way the West lives.

Consider the transition from the traditional automobile to electric transport. Despite European illusions to the contrary, this will be decided in China, not in the West. All that will be decided by the West’s globally dominant automobile industry is whether it will adapt and have a chance to survive or go the way of other old Western industries: to the developing world.

Smogwatch

With only five days to go before the opening of the Olympic Games, the iconic Bird’s Nest national stadium in Beijing was visible under clear blue skies on Sunday (August 3).

Despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue, the Olympic Green is frequently barely visible through the haze.

Smogwatch

With only six days to go before the opening of the Olympic Games, the iconic Bird’s Nest national stadium in Beijing was visible under clear blue skies on saturday (August 2).  Despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue, the Olympic Green is frequently barely visible through the haze.
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) from Friday (August 02), which was API 27. This figure is valid from 1200 the day before until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day. This is grade one, “excellent”, and counts as a “blue sky day”. The temperature was forecast to be around 30 degrees celsius with only 51 percent humidity
    The authorities have ordered many cars off roads and halted much construction and factory production in an effort to cut smog before the Games open on August 8.  Pollution has been one of the biggest worries for Games organisers who have said they may reschedule endurance events to prevent health risks to athletes.
See the latest smogwatch video from around the Olympic Green here

Smogwatch

With only 9 days to go before the opening of the Olympic Games, the iconic Bird’s Nest national stadium in Beijing was visible again for the second day running on Wednesday (July 30). The stadium had been shrouded in smog for days previously, despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue. The temperature on Wednesday was forecast to be around 33 degrees Celsius with 78 percent humidity. The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was showing the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) on Wednesday as API 90. This figure is valid from 1200 the day before until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day. This is grade 2 and counts as a “blue sky day”. Beijing could restrict more cars and shut more factories if air pollution persists during the Olympic Games. The authorities have ordered many cars off roads and halted much construction and factory production in an effort to cut smog before the Games open on August 8. But the city has still endured hazy skies over the past week, and again on Monday (July 28), raising fears that the sultry heat Beijing often experiences in August could make for a cocktail of haze, fumes and dust for tens of thousands of athletes and visitors. see the latest smogwatch video from around the Olympic green here

Smogwatch

With only 10 days to go before the opening of the Olympic Games, the iconic Bird’s Nest national stadium in Beijing was visible again on Tuesday (July 29). The stadium had been shrouded in smog for days previously, despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue. The temperature on Tuesday was forecast to be around 34 degrees Celsius with 69 percent humidity, but rain is forecast, which many in Beijing hope will clear the smog.  
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was showing the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) on Tuesday as between API 51 and 71. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) to the present day. This range counts as a “blue sky day”.
    Beijing could restrict more cars and shut more factories if air pollution persists during the Olympic Games, a report said on Monday, as an environmental group said endurance athletes could face problems.
    The authorities have ordered many cars off roads and halted much construction and factory production in an effort to cut smog before the Games open on August 8. But the city has still endured hazy skies over the past week, and again on Monday (July 28), raising fears that the sultry heat Beijing often experiences in August could make for a cocktail of haze, fumes and dust for tens of thousands of athletes and visitors.
    An official newspaper indicated authorities may take more drastic steps to choke off pollution.
    “More vehicles could go off the roads and all construction sites and some more factories in Beijing and its neighbouring areas could be closed temporarily if the capital’s air quality deteriorates during the Olympic Games,” the China Daily said.
    Pollution has been one of the biggest worries for Games organisers who have said they may reschedule endurance events to prevent health risks to athletes.
    The environmental group Greenpeace mixed praise for Beijing Olympic organisers’ energy- and water-saving efforts with warnings that air pollution, especially particulate matter, remains a long-term problem.
    Beijing’s measures of PM10 — particulate matter 10 microns in diameter, about a seventh the thickness of a human hair — have consistently stayed above Chinese national standards and stricter World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, Greenpeace said in an assessment of the Beijing Games. 
    Cars are now banned on alternate days depending on their licence plate number — odd or even — and many government cars have been ordered off the roads. Taxis, buses and Olympic vehicles are exempt. Around Beijing, heavily polluting factories, such as steel plants, have also been closed.
see the latest smogwatch video from around the Olympic Green here

Smogwatch (1)

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After a promising start in the immediate aftermath of the “odd-even” car restrictions and factory closures on July 20th, the air quality in Beijing has slowly deteriorated, as this combination picture shows.

Beijing's polluted skies 

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau says data shows that improvements have been made, but this is surely not the backdrop that organisers had in mind for the Olympics.

Smogwatch

Only two weeks before the start of the Olympics Beijing is still suffering from smog.
Despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue, smog still shrouded the iconic national stadium, the Bird’s Nest on Friday (July 25), only two weeks before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games. The temperature on Friday was forecast to be around 29 degrees Celsius with 70 percent humidity, so more humid than the day before.
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Thursday (July 24) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading bewteen API 115 and 135. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day.  API 115-135 is grade three in the Chinese system, meaning “slightly polluted”, and doesn’t count as a “blue sky day”.
    Environmental experts have in the past cast doubts on the Beijing’s claims of improvement in air quality, particularly the much-vaunted “blue sky days” tally that the authorities use to measure the improvement. Beijing says the blue sky index is aimed at helping Beijing residents understand the differences in air quality.
    The city’s chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Games organisers. In addition to traffic restrictions the city has called a halt to all building work, giving the construction dust a few weeks to settle before the Opening Ceremony.
see the latest smogwatch video here

Smogwatch July 24

    The iconic national stadium, the Bird’s Nest in Beijing was barely visible through smog on Thursday (July 24), despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue. The temperature was forecast to be around 34 degrees Celsius with 79 percent humidity.
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Wednesday (July 23) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading of API 89. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day, but the air quality on Thursday was visibly even worse than the day before.
    API 89 is still grade two in the Chinese system, meaning “comparatively good”, and counts as a “blue sky day” in Beijing.
    Environmental experts have in the past cast doubts on the Beijing’s claims of improvement in air quality, particularly the much-vaunted “blue sky days” tally that the authorities use to measure the improvement. Beijing says the blue sky index is aimed at helping Beijing residents understand the differences in air quality.
    The city’s chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Games organisers. On Sunday the authorities have restricted traffic and called a halt to all building work, giving the construction dust a few weeks to settle before the Opening Ceremony.

 see the latest smogwatch video from around the Olympic Green here

Smogwatch 23rd July

Despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue, smog still shrouded the iconic national stadium, the Bird’s Nest on Wednesday (July 23). The temperature on Wednesday was forecast to be around 30 degrees Celsius with 66 percent humidity.    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Tuesday (July 22) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading of API 66. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day, but the air quality on Wednesday was visibly worse than the day before.

    API 66 is grade two in the Chinese system, meaning “comparatively good”, and counts as a “blue sky day” in Beijing.

Smogwatch

    With just three weeks to go before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, the blue sky which had been seen over the Bird’s Nest National Stadium in Beijing recently, was giving way to smog again.
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Thursday (July 17) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading of API 77. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT), but the air quality at 0800 local time (0000 GMT) on Friday (July 18) was visibly much worse than the day before, when a blue sky could be seen over the Bird’s Nest.
    API 77 is grade 2 in the Chinese system, meaning “comparatively good”, and counts as a “blue sky day” in Beijing. On Friday, the sky was dull at 0800gmt just before it started to pour with rain in Beijing, with the temperature at 27 degrees and 78 percent humidity.
    Beijing has spent 140 billion yuan ($20.34 billion U.S. dollars) on environmental improvements over the last decade, the problem persists, however, particularly when there is no wind or rainy weather – as there will be in August.  Further measures start this weekend, when Beijing will close more factories and force 19 heavy polluters to reduce emissions by 30 percent from July 20. 
    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it might reschedule endurance events such as the marathon to prevent health risks to athletes competing for more than an hour.
    See the latest video of air quality conditions around the Olympic Green here

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