back to article 11m Chinese engulfed by 'Airpocalypse' at 4000% of safe pollution levels

A choking cloud of air pollution 4,000 per cent as dangerous as the World Health Organization's recommendation of daily airborne particulate exposure has virtually shut down one of northeastern China's most populous cities. Air pollution in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, northeastern China, in October 2013 No, it's not a …

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  1. Brian Miller

    Burning coal? Oil? Wood? What?

    What are these people burning to produce heat? It certainly isn't natural gas.

    I can't blame them for being upset. That stuff looks absolutely nasty.

    1. Brian Miller

      Coal for heating, and clearing the corn fields

      http://qz.com/137562/chinas-northeast-hit-by-air-pollution-so-bad-you-cant-see-your-own-fingers-in-front-of-you/

      The heating systems are coal-fired, and they are also clearing their corn fields by burning them. They used to get coal for free, but now it's merely heavily subsidized.

      1. Thorsten

        Re: Coal for heating, and clearing the corn fields

        Parts sent from Europe to automotive factories in China (e.g. for CKD manufacturing) are shipped in cardboard boxes, not re-usable crates, as shipping these crates back to Europe would be too expensive. The cardboard boxes are then given to the workers as heating material. That's not exactly helping with the pollution problem either.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: Coal for heating, and clearing the corn fields

        "The heating systems are coal-fired, and they are also clearing their corn fields by burning them. They used to get coal for free, but now it's merely heavily subsidized."

        So basically it's smog.

        This is what London looked like up until the 1950's.

        Perhaps the Chinese should look up an old British document called the "Clean Air Act."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Coal for heating, and clearing the corn fields

          "Perhaps the Chinese should look up an old British document called the "Clean Air Act.""

          Perhaps the West should realise that Chinese stuff is cheap for a reason; all we've done in the UK is export our 1950s domestic and commercial smog, without also exporting the Alkali Act and its successors such as the 1958 Alkali Order. These were arguably just as important as, albeit not as well known as, the Clean Air Act, in terms of clearing up pollution and smogs.

          Light touch regulation is good for you. Just ask China.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Perhaps the West should realise...

            I think there is widespread recognition in the West that China is cheap because it cuts corners in ways that we no longer do. However, if the West is increasingly reluctant to "export" pieces of legislation then that is probably a Good Thing.

            I also think there is increasing recognition of this fact in China, too. (There's probably an IT angle in there somewhere.) We may not have long to wait before the local population decide to replace their current crooks with a bunch who give a shit about the people they are ruling. Then the 8% annual growth will cease (if indeed it was ever true) but the country will be all the better for it.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Coal for heating, and clearing the corn fields

          "This is what London looked like up until the 1950's."

          Christchurch, New Zealand looked like this up until the mid 1980s (albeit on a smaller scale).

          Those photos remind me of what it used to be like, cycling to school in my childhood.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Too Much Coal

      Coal is full of all sorts of interesting and harmful chemicals, it's a fine fuel for energy but must be used in moderation.

      China consumes half the global output of coal every year, they produce roughly half of it as well.

      That is the scale of the problem.

      One country burning over 4000 million tons of coal every year - how can there not be a massive problem with pollution there?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Burning coal? Oil? Wood? What?

      Its not just coal... it tends to be cheap, low grade coal, which makes the nastiest smoke.

      They're badly in need of some modern nuclear power up there, as it isn't clear quite how else they're going to get all the power they need without burning horrendous amounts of coal. I wonder how tectonically stable the area is.

  2. JDX Gold badge

    Forget global warming

    THIS is why moving from fossil fuels is a good idea...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forget global warming

      So we can then drink waste instead of breathe it? Unless someone can step forth with a brand new energy source that doesn't create waste, then I think this article highlights why you can't sacrifice the lively hood of your citizens in the name of capitalism. Of course if China wants to keep eating away at other countries economies, something will have to be sacrificed, but I'm doubting that will be cash influx.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Forget global warming

        So we can then drink waste instead of breathe it?

        Ummm... What?

        Several alternatives to burning coal I can think of are:

        1) Natural gas

        - Still produces CO2 but less than burning coal, and doesn't tend to also produce toxic oxides of sulphur, nitrogen and heavy metals.

        2) Solar

        - Expensive, and probably produces some nasty stuff in the production of silicon panels, but the technology is progressing and becong cheaper.

        3) Wind

        - Relies on 'rare earth' metals for high powered magnets, which probbaly aren't too environmentallt pleasant in their refining but otherwise pretty much waste-free

        4) Nuclear

        Besides the problem of long term storage/disposal of high-level radiactive waste, these produce less environmental radioactive output than burning coal, which contains all sorts of nasty heavy metals, some of which are radioactive. Seriously, I would rather be downstream from a nuclear plant than downwind from a coal one.

        1. drewsup

          Re: Forget global warming

          dont forget Mercury, i was living in the not so great state of SC a few years ago.

          story in the news of of a poor bloke who fished every day and ate what he caught. unfortunate for him he fished down wind from a coal fired power station, poor guy died from mercury poisioning.

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Forget global warming

          "Besides the problem of long term storage/disposal of high-level radiactive waste, these produce less environmental radioactive output than burning coal, which contains all sorts of nasty heavy metals, some of which are radioactive. Seriously, I would rather be downstream from a nuclear plant than downwind from a coal one."

          'Tis a pity that fossil power plants aren't subject to the same emissions rules as nuclear ones. Still, I expect our bodies know whether the radiation and heavy metals they are ingesting came from a wicked nuclear plant or a harmless coal one.

    2. Marvin the Martian

      Keep calm and carry on.

      Moving on from fossil fuels? Whatever next!

      What this article needs, instead, is Lewis Page who says it's all nonsense; it's all panicky nimbyism; like radioactivity it's harmless and like global warming it's not there at all.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Keep calm and carry on.

        It's possible for nuke plants to comtrinute to global warming - only 1/3 of the energy they produce is turned into electricity whilst the rest of it (heat) is dumped into the atmosphere.

        Have enough of them and it may become a problem.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          @Alan Brown (Was: Keep calm and carry on.)

          Global warming is not caused by waste heat. It is caused by changing the amount of solar radiation that is retained by the planet. Unless that atmospheric balance changes, waste heat dumped by nuclear plants simply escapes into space and there is no change whatsoever to global temperatures.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: @Alan Brown (Was: Keep calm and carry on.)

            "Global warming is not caused by waste heat."

            I know that. (It's one of the research fields I support).

            The point is that there's a theoretical limit to how much heat can be dumped into the atmosphere (admittedly an utterly massive amount). It's not about "heat retention", it's about "heat absorbed vs heat radiated", which is more or less the same thing but allows for sources other than the star we orbit.

            Part of the reason BWR nuke plants are so stupidly inefficient is the very low delta-T involved. New generation high temperature designs should extract more usable power than the current crop of oversized teakettles, if they ever get built.

    3. The Axe

      Re: Forget global warming

      Yep, they need to move from the fossil fuel coal to the fossil fuel gas.

      This is why we in the UK don't need to do anything to counter global warming. China produces a quarter of the world's CO2, we in the UK create 1%. Even if we shut down the whole country today the world's temperature wouldn't change.

      1. Colin Miller

        Re: Forget global warming

        > China produces a quarter of the world's CO2, we in the UK create 1%.

        China has 19% of the World's population, the UK has 0.8%.

        CO2/capita for China is 1.32, for UK it is 1.13.

        We seem to be about as carbon-intense as each other; the major problem in China seems to be the soot; no Clean Air Acts out there, AFAIK.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    Hmmm...

    This industrialization-era smog rightfully belongs to the UK!!

    I read about this in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's "The Difference Engine"...

    1. bharq
      Alert

      Re: Hmmm...

      They'll copy anything over there... If we don't watch out, soon they'll have better smog than we had!

      Do we have the patent lying around somewhere?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Hmmm...

        We probably don't have the patent, but if they start referring to theirs as pea-soupers, then I'm sure we can have them on trademark abuse!

  4. Snar
    Joke

    thinkofthechildren!

    In 2008, the UK was listed as having contributed 1.75% of the worlds CO2.

    China, the US and Europe combined contributed over 55% by the same stats. Why are we taking it up the shitter with extortionate taxes and the threat of the lights going off when this can happen?

    Joke alert because that's what I think global environmentalist evangelism is.

    1. Havin_it
      Boffin

      Re: thinkofthechildren!

      Well, based on some back-of-the-fag-packet calculations using the first figures the Web threw at me, I make it we're about 0.89% of the world's people, so we're still being a bit greedy, innit?

      1. Nuke

        @Havin_it - Re: thinkofthechildren!

        Wrote :- "I make it we're about 0.89% of the world's people, so we're still being a bit greedy,"

        The UK is still basically a manufacturing country, located in a cold, damp, climate. You can hardly expect it to be as good in this respect as countries which are basically agricultural (eg Brazil) or in zones which do not need much heating or A/C.

        Yet we are still busting a gut to do better, clawing up a steep and slippery slope of diminishing returns, in order to humour the private obsessions of some people, including Cameron himself.

        Personally, I will not find the UK government credible until and unless it re-programs traffic lights such that dozens of cars at each junction are left idling for up to a minute with red showing in all directions, for reasons unknown. Just an example.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Why are we taking it up the shitter ..."

      Perhaps, this TIUTS action being perpetrated on us will enable our economy and culture to adapt better and faster than others to the incipient post-fossil-carbon future; and leave us better positioned to take an advantage over those less subjected to TIUTS taxes/etc. Or not. Who can say?

      Interestingly, I've just seen an argument entitled "Economic benefits of decarbonising the global electricity sector" at http://arxiv.org/abs/1310.4403 which I suppose might make such an argument. I haven't read it, though, so you or I may well find some flaws in their reasoning. In fact, I in no way advocate that you should believe such a dubious proposition, but you might find it amusing to pick holes in the work. Why not read it and see? What's the worst that could happen ... ?

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Why are we taking it up the ...

      Because per capita you have more socialists than we do in the US. Not that we're all that far from taking it too.

    4. Gav

      Re: thinkofthechildren!

      Why us? Because if we don't, why the hell should China?

      The planet doesn't care which country is contributing to the CO2, it all ends up the same place, Humans, on the other hand, are petty and selfish, and won't do anything that costs and is not in their immediate self interest unless everyone is doing the same. Why should they be the only ones to pay?

      So China isn't going to do anything if it feels that no-one else is. And if China doesn't do anything, people in the UK won't want to do anything either. So it's a self-assured mutual suicide pact, because no-one wants to be the first one to do what it's in everyone's interests to do.

      Humanity, I despair.

  5. Adam Foxton

    Another sign that we are officially in the future

    People will stay at home with the heating on to avoid this, creating more of this mess. So the more there is, the more will be produced.

    So we've got a more-or-less self-perpetuating nanoscale grey goo that is killing all humans exposed to it? Just about the time we got computers smart enough to legally drive a car while talking over a globally-reaching, near-instant web of almost all the world's information.

    At the same time, Evil Corporations and The Government are slurping up our comms.

    I feel I should have my local library move lots of its 'Science Fiction' section to 'Recent History'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another sign that we are officially in the future

      http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1848433/the-ocean-is-broken/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another sign that we are officially in the future

        There's a really good book that deals with this topic, it's called "Stung!". Basically, all marine eco-systems have been overfished to the point of extinction, jellyfish move in and expand, game over...

        In twenty years time there won't be any fish left, so get used to it. What I find particularly interesting is that books advocating healthy living are STILL telling us we should eat more fish. Even though the oceans have been practically swept clean, and the fish that do get pulled in are chock-a-block with chemicals and medication.

        Funny thing is, the Omega-3 in fish oil isn't even particularly good for us, a much better alternative is walnuts or Chia seed.

      2. daldred

        Re: Really?

        Sad story. But it does occur to me - instead of cruising through the rubbish, fending it off with a pole, then asking for someone else to clean it up when they gt home, why aren't these operators netting as much as they can tow each time, and taking it inshore?

        Sure it would (environmentally) cost loads in fuel to run a special operation to clean it up - but the marginal fuel cost if journeys are being made anyway is surely more manageable.

        Get the governments to pay by the tonne for 'captured' waste, and offset additional fuel costs for operators, and you have a viable system for cleaning up, with the governments whose ports carry most shipping paying the most. logically enough.

  6. Herby

    And Laws of the USA/Europe are going to prevent this?

    I strongly doubt it. Yes, the pollution is pretty bad, but out well intentioned wonderful environmentalists here complain about the pollution we are creating here in the USA, and hobbling us with rules that will make the "clean" air just a little bit "cleaner" (think of the children!). They should expend their energies where it will do more good in those places (China among others). The problem they have is that China could care less, as the story pointed out, because those "in control" have their nice air filters.

    Message to Al Gore: Expend your efforts in China NOW! We here in the USA have done quite a bit already.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And Laws of the USA/Europe are going to prevent this?

      You make some sense. Money isn't exactly going to the greatest projects here in the U.S.A. right now, so maybe some sort of NATO for pollution should be setup. However, I'm not sure if isn't already, but if there is, it surely isn't focused on China.

      Hating America Is A Crime!

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: And Laws of the USA/Europe are going to prevent this?

        "Hating America Is A Crime!". Hate is stupidity. People do not hate America, people are concerned about America and most of the educated population in the USA is concerned too.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: maybe some sort of NATO for pollution

        That would be almost as bad as using the UN.

        You want to fix the problem? It's simple and easily contained within your borders. Pass a law that requires all imported goods to come from factories which meet the pollution controls that would be required if the factory were built in your country. Mandate one of your government types has to inspect the factory if necessary. If goods are imported from a factory that isn't inspected/doesn't meet the requirements the import tax is equal to the cost of the regulatory burden placed on factories in your own country.

        Problem solved.

        Oh wait, you say it's not? Because for all that the UK and the US might be dumping their pollution in third world countries, those third world countries are generating even more of it own their own. Like using coal instead of natural gas or oil to heat their homes. Coal they can now afford because they work in one of those factories supplying goods to Americans and Brits.

    2. Mr Flibble
      Headmaster

      Re: And Laws of the USA/Europe are going to prevent this?

      One minor problem… the article suggests that they DO care less (except where they think that it's most visible to the outside world)… do you mean “couldn't care less”?

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        on caring less

        Mr Flibble, please see here for why many North Americans use “could care less” to mean “couldn’t care less”.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: on caring less

          You just quoted yourself.

          Truncation of a previously popular phrase or not; the fact is that if you could care less then it's quite possible that you care more; whereas if you couldn't care less it isn't.

          1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

            Re: on caring less

            moiety, I linked to my past explanation because observations like Mr Flibble’s occur with some frequency, and it is easier to point to the existing explanation than to repeat the explanation each time the same observation is made by a different commenter.

            Your view of the fact would be correct if the phrase had been meant to be taken literally. However, since it wasn’t, that fact does not apply.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: on caring less

              Your view of the fact would be correct if the phrase had been meant to be taken literally. However, since it wasn’t, that fact does not apply.

              You're an idiot

              You're not an idiot

              See how grammar and lazy contraction makes the world of difference to meaning?

              1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

                Re: on caring less

                Anonymous Coward, unlike “could care less” and “couldn’t care less”, “you’re an idiot” is not a common elision of a phrase that means “you’re not an idiot”. Do you see how context can affect meaning?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Headmaster

                  Re: on caring less

                  > Do you see how context can affect meaning?

                  Saying the opposite of what you actually mean and expecting everyone to understand is just plain stupid.

                  Teenagers do it all the time and it drives me nuts.

                  No amount of rationalisation makes any sense of it whatsoever.

                  Say what you mean: nothing more, nothing less.

                  1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

                    Re: on caring less

                    skelband, the meaning of the North American phrase is perfectly well understood, despite it being the opposite of its literal definition; if it weren’t so widely understood, this discussion wouldn’t be occurring. Perhaps you hold the same view of other examples, such as the 1970s usage of “bad” meaning good? Many of our beloved co-commentards are fond of similar forms, e.g. proclaiming support for recently revealed NSA activities when they’d meant the exact opposite of what they’d typed.

                    You’ll never be able to stop teenagers (or anyone else) from expressing themselves in this way, but how you choose to react is entirely up to you.

                    Should Cockney rhyming slang be expunged from the language because its use has no readily apparent rational basis? Language evolves in different ways in differenet places. In the “caring less” case, a long-winded expression became popular in North America, and was subsequently elided because of familiarity with the expression, in much the same way that acronyms start to be used rather than their source phrases. If you are unable to glean any sense from that explanation, then I can only offer my sympathy to you.

                    So if someone says “It really is turtles all the way down.”, the literal meaning of that phrase should be accepted as that person’s honest view? Nothing more, nothing less?

                2. Cliff

                  Re: on caring less

                  >>>Anonymous Coward, unlike “could care less” and “couldn’t care less”, “you’re an idiot” is not a common elision of a phrase that means “you’re not an idiot”. Do you see how context can affect meaning?<<<

                  You're not an idiot. :)

      2. John H Woods

        Re: And Laws of the USA/Europe are going to prevent this?

        Yes, I've always wondered why USians think "could care less" is a synonym for "couldn't care less" but then I'm told they believe that "buried at sea" is how you say "chained to a radiator in a secret prison with electrodes on his testicles"

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: And Laws of the USA/Europe are going to prevent this?

      "We here in the USA have done quite a bit already.". Yes indeed, you have moved your production and capital to China. Fine if the US solved the pollution problem in China but I think there is something odd in that equation. As for air filters it's like complaining about a pimple when you have lung cancer.

    4. Hans 1
      Mushroom

      Re: And Laws of the USA/Europe are going to prevent this?

      "We here in the USA have done quite a bit already."

      As a nation, Usians generate more waste than any other nation in the world with 4.5 pounds (2.04 kg) of municipal solid waste (MSW) per person per day, fifty five percent of which is contributed as residential garbage.

      As a nation, Usians consume 25% of yearly oil production.

      Source wikipedia

      You have not even started, sorry ....

    5. Malcom Ryder 1

      Re: And Laws of the USA/Europe are going to prevent this?

      As a patriotic American I am proud to admit we are world leaders. If we implement pollution control devices , the rest of the world will follow our example. You and your fellow America haters should move to Somalia and enjoy their true Libertarian government

  7. David Woodhead

    They're burning brown coal

    The carbon emissions of the whole of the EU, let alone the UK, are as nothing compared with those of China's brown coal power stations. I completely believe in the contribution of man-made emissions to global warming, but anything that the EU can persuade its consumers do in this respect is irrelevant compared with China's output. Ditto Africa and North America. And China isn't going to cut back any time soon.

    That's why all current attempts to reduce carbon emissions are doomed to failure.

    Discuss.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: They're burning brown coal

      Its where OUR air pollution has gone.

      We exported it to places like China because it was cheaper to get stuff made there than here

      Hence our cities are nice and clean and free of air pollution while china's lucky citizens choke to death... much as we used to.....

      mmm smog

    2. Mr Flibble
      FAIL

      Re: They're burning brown coal

      Believing in something is religion.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: They're burning brown coal

        "Believing in something is religion." Believing in something that can be proved is often called science. Now when I believe I need a beer I think it's nor religion or science, words are confusing. Could it be that the "thing" in something is to blame or all the meanings of the word "believe". Anyway "Believing in something is religion." is just five words without any meaning.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They're burning brown coal

          Believing in something that can be proved is often called science

          Science is a body of knowledge and a methodology for extending it. Conflating belief and science is more for the Dawkins set, and given the lack of critical thinking from the average person espousing Dawkins probably does look more like religion than anything.

  8. another_vulture

    Industrialization

    The Chinese population is 1.34 Billion.

    China is is rapidly industrializing. Countries in this phase historically pass through a phase of horrible smog, but since their population is so huge, it's happening in a lot of cities all at the same time. This happened in London in 1952, and in Donora, Pennsylvania, in 1948, but with much smaller populations, the problems were much less widespread. It is apparently very hard for one country to learn from the experience of another. It takes a widley publicized tragedy to cause change.

    From a human perspective, this is a short-term acute crisis (probably thousands of localized deaths in a week) sitting on top of a chronic health problem (tens of thousands of dispersed deaths in a year) and a global warming problem (potentially much more severe on a long timescale.) The short-term problem gets the attention and causes action.

    Change takes time. In 1950, all of London's buildings were black with soot. Today, London's air is (fairly) clean. It's hard to predict how the Chinese government will react to killer smog and how long it will take to solve this problem. The chinese GNP per capita may not be high enough to avoid life-or-death tradeoffs. A shift away from coal may require resources that otherwise avoid famine: a choice between death from smog ro death from hunger.

    (Sorry, but I've been reading all of Dickens. London in the 1840's and all that.)

  9. BlueGreen

    Whatever

    I can't care any more. Humanity will pollute itself out of existence because too many of it's constituents it's too stupid to acknowledge what's happening. Easier to deny it than to deal with it. Nice to have cheerleaders for the I'm-all-right-jack[*] brigade in the shape of Messrs. Orlowski & Page that @Snar, @Herby (and shortly there will be others of their ilk) can conga behind.

    Anyway, I always like to dig a bit and thought I'd see what links from Harbin would lead me to.

    Chieck this bitchin' bit of statuary out <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leshan_Giant_Buddha>, eighth wonder I reckon. Like something out of Indiana Jones, but real. How come I've never heard of it.

    [*] all right for the moment. You wait.

  10. JustWondering
    WTF?

    Now pull my other one

    If this cloud is caused by heating, shouldn't this happen every cold day? Or at least not until everyone has the heat on for a few days?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Now pull my other one

      The last big smog in London in the fifties killed something like 2,500 people. In a weekend. Although regulation on city factories and power stations was part of it, it was also creating smokeless zones, where people couldn't burn wood, or normal coal. I believe domestic heating was the biggest factor.

      at the time, London only had a population of about 7.5 million. With China's cities being bigger, and no state healthcare, the death tolls will probably be bigger, but never reported.

      Although my Mum described the London smogs as worse than that video, because she said you couldn't even see the kerb, from the middle of the road.

      1. david 12 Silver badge

        Re: Now pull my other one

        I'm old enough to remember coal smogs. I always snort when I see Sherlock Holmes depicted in London in a white cotton-puff fog.

        The imediate killer in Killer Smog is the Acid. Sulphuric and Nitric acids. The fine particles are things that will kill you later. Much later. Years later. Those big Longon smog death tolls were from the bodies immediate reaction to inhaled vapours.

      2. rurwin

        Re: Now pull my other one

        In Birmingham, my Dad recounted driving home with the passenger door open so he could see the kerb.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Now pull my other one

          "In Birmingham, my Dad recounted driving home with the passenger door open so he could see the kerb."

          Blimey! I think I would be walking home that day. Mind you I'd probably have to stay well back from the road to make sure your Dad's open door didnt give me a whack!

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  12. poopypants

    There's plenty of natural gas in Australia

    In 2012 China purchased A$51 billion worth of iron ore, coal, and gold from Australia.

    Perhaps they should be buying less coal and more natural gas.

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: There's plenty of natural gas in Australia

      Perhaps they should be buying less coal and more natural gas.

      Natural gas is more expensive than coal. Which is why gas is commonly sold to the larger consumers (power generation) around the west, because it's expensive to transport coal from the other side of the country.

      'Plenty of it' doesn't count when dollars and cents are concerned...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know who else wouldn't care?

    Republicans!</Al Gore>

  14. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Field burning

    I think the practice of burning the fields probably contributes to quite a lot of this. I've seen a few bits of corn field burn up here (usually they're burning some twigs and rubbish and it gets a bit out of hand), it's very smokey; in calm are the smoke goes straight up, but with a breeze or temperature inversion trapping it low, it goes for miles (at concentrations where you can see it's smokey and smell it.)

    The coal does not help, but compared to a field fire coal is relatively clean.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Field burning

      I would disagree. Where I grew up, in the 1980s in a rural area, the burning of crop stubble was a common practice. When the wind was in the right direction on a late summer's day, we couldn't hang washing outside, as the littel bits of carbonised straw would float down on the wind. What we didn't get, however, was choking smog. This is probably because crop stubble is largely cellulose, which contains no sulphur, and has a much less dense structure than coal, which allows air to mix well and so burns more cleanly.

      The added bonus of crop stubble burning (now banned in this country) was that it generated some awesome thunder storms, as the rising column of hot air would punch through the tropopause and push the more moist air from the lower layers of the atmosphere up into massive thunderhead clouds.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cynically thinking

    What powermongering politician in an overpopulated country would think that the side-effect of making money through industrialisation without care to the environment which ends up killing some of it's population is a bad thing?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If any of you followed the Asia-Pacific News

    You would know that China is investing heavily in "Green" power, including a VERY ambitious plan to generate 15% of its power requirements with renewables THIS DECADE - hence the stories about them limiting the export of certain rare earth metals last year - they need them to build their own wind turbines.

    But it will take time to overcome decades of corruption, the building of dangerously polluting coal powered power stations and the cover-up of environmental outrages.

    The rapid increase in private car use is not helping.

    Existing measures have already greatly improved the air quality in cities located in southern China, where in places like Guangzhou, the local government lead the way by having ALL of the state buses converted to LPG. In many southern cities, the old, smoky 2 stroke motorbikes are banned from entering, and even newer bikes have only a limited life before either removal from the city or destruction.

    Even so, the smog is noticeable during the morning/evening rush hours.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Remember folks, the atmosphere acknoledges *no* borders.

    Sooner or later we will all be inhaling some of that.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: Remember folks, the atmosphere acknoledges *no* borders.

      Not in the UK. The permanantly operating air washing system will rain that stuff out of the atmosphere. Shame that it interferes with solar panels & Sunday barbeques though.

  18. Natalie Gritpants Silver badge

    > 4,000 per cent as dangerous as the World Health Organization's recommendation

    So those things walking around are zombies or the WHO recommendation is not particularly dangerous. "4000% of the WHO recom.." is what you meant. Sticking extra words in a sentence might make you hit your article length target but it can mess up your message.

  19. Potemkine Silver badge
    Mushroom

    When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger

    Environmentalists blame constantly nuclear energy as being the Absolute EvilTM,when usage of coal kills millions of people each year and help to modify the global climate system... well done guys, you truly show how useless you are.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger

      Yes, nuclear power seems to be the Achilles' heel of Environmentalists. You seem to have started to build a new one in Blighty. I find that good although I realise more should be done to how the mining is done.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger

      Yeah, how'd that Fukushima/Chernoble/Three Mile Island/Lucens thing work out, eh?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger

        Well, Chernobyl was the result of a stupidly dangerous experiment carried out by people who didn't know what they were doing, so hardly something that can be blamed on the technology, and 3-mile Island didn't actually release any significant contamination into the air. The same is true for Lucens. The worst accident in UK nuclear history was the Windscale fire which you forgot to mention.

      2. Potemkine Silver badge

        Re: When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger

        All energies kill. Nuclear energy is still the energy that kills the less people by produced TWh.

      3. Swarthy Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger

        Okay, you have named four nuclear disasters. You have named all four. So in the past >50 year nukes have done as much environmental damage as one refinery explosion, or Deep Horizon.

        And Refinery fires/explosions don't even get reported, they are so common.

      4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger

        And to add to that, Fukushima was on the edge of an island built in close proximity and directly facing one of the world's largest and most geologically active subduction zones.

        The new reactors to be built in the UK will face Wales.

        Forgive me for stating the obvious, but Wales does not generate many tsunamis.

        It is also worth pointing out that the tsunami that destroyed Fukushima also killed some tens of thousands of people, and made many more homeless, whereas the resulting meltdown of the nuclear reactors there has killed nobody and it is doubtful as to whether there will be any real serious long-term health effects to anyone as a result.

        1. nrta
          Meh

          Re: When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger

          http://www.burnham-on-sea.com/1607-flood.shtml

          "Tsunami inundation - On the flat coastal areas the tsunami was able to penetrate a considerable distance inland. The maximum inland penetration possible of a moving tsunami wave in north Devon and southwest Wales would have been just under 2.5 km (1.55 miles), in Glamorgan just over 3 km (1.86 miles), in Somerset just under 4 km (2.5 miles), and in Monmouthshire just under 6 km (3.7 miles). This agrees well with the accounts of the wave reaching up to 4 miles inland at Cardiff and in Monmouthshire. The fact that the floodwaters reached further inland in places, such as to the foot of Glastonbury Tor (14 miles inland) is due to the fact that the landsurface actually slopes landward in many of the coastal wetland areas, such as the Somerset Levels, so once the wave collapsed the water flowed landward under gravity rather than back to the sea."

          When considering technologies like nuclear power, you really have to think a little longer term.

  20. Defrost

    That's why I left Beijing almost one year ago. And that's sucks because it's a freaking cool city.

    1. AchimR

      It is, loved it there.

      Considering going there long term, but then rather to the south coast :)

  21. FuzzyTheBear

    numbers ! schlumbers ! and a plot !

    When someone says 40 times as much it dosen't sound as dramatic as 4000%

    40 times the WHO limit is not impacting as much . Probably some journalist ( ;) ) that's in need of a high impact headline .. or his boss ..

    This being said , i feel sorry for the People that has to inhale that garbage. but I smell a plot !

    That plot is the modern day equivalent of war : there's a theory that makes a direct relation between economic activity / industrialization and pollution, by moving all the production to China the US corporations and all others in the world that contract to China also moved the pollution associated with producing goods ( dangerous / toxic wastes ) to China which will eventually lead to it's demise / revolt and major changes to it's political system. Totally evil .

    Conspiracy theorists , rejoice .

  22. Unicornpiss
    Alert

    3rd world trying to get in the game...

    This is what every country goes through as it develops manufacturing might and goes through its own "industrial revolution" it seems. Expansion and greed before common sense and controls. I'm sure we'll see it more as more nations bludgeon their way to relevance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 3rd world trying to get in the game...

      Funny though that a communist nation (even one with capatilist leanings like China) which is supposed to be governed by the people for the people would run willy nilly into "industrial revolution" style expansion despite all of the known dangerous and destructive environmental effects and their effect on its citizens.

      Funny, because I dont really see any difference between how a capatilist nation does it to the way the communist nation does it. The poorest citizens on each side suffer equally.

  23. Shasta McNasty

    Population Control?

    The One-child policy didn't work as that just made the percentage of older people increase, so with the smog caused by the heating systems, old people have a choice - freeze to death or put the heating on and choke to death on the pollution. Meanwhile all the "important" people have air purifiers.

    I think I've seen this before in some Sci-Fi b-movie.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So my solar cells, LE bulbs, etc.. are all pointless because the chinese will be responsible for damaging the planet.

    POINTLESS!

  25. b 3

    i don't get it?

    why are the chinese poisoning their own people??

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: i don't get it?

      I expect their *own* people (families and friends) are holidaying somewhere nice on the back of their ill-gotten gains. The people getting poisoned are merely other people. I imagine that "Chinese" is only a useful adjective if you are outside China, just like "European" is only a useful adjective if you are in UKIP.

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