Image source: Foreign Policy

 

 

BY ZACH TOOMBS

 

 

Giving in to public pressure, Beijing began posting publicly-accessible data on the city’s air pollution Saturday. But, as MSNBC reports, the numbers are already drawing skepticism.

 

“Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant who has studied Beijing's pollution data since 2006, said he was ‘already a bit suspicious’ of Beijing's PM2.5 data. Within the 24-hour period to noon Saturday, Beijing reported seven hourly figures ‘at the very low level’ of 0.003 milligrams per cubic meter.”

 

Those postings conflict with data taken by the U.S. Embassy, which says the air quality was at “moderate” levels during the same time span. The embassy has taken its own hourly readings since 2009 and posted them on Twitter as @BeijingAir.

 

According to the embassy, over the past week, one day has averaged in the “very unhealthy” range, while two have registered as “hazardous” -- a level at which doctors recommend staying indoors.

 

Beijing has been measuring some types of air pollution for years. But they weren’t measuring pollutants less than 2.5 micrometers in size -- the type that can actually penetrate deep into the lungs. Foreign Policy notes Beijing is also more lenient in its measurements, writing:

 

“Pollution is a sensitive subject in China, with state-run media often explaining away the smell of glue and haze so thick it obscures even nearby buildings with the term ‘fog,’ and claiming, unbelievably, that Beijing enjoyed 274 ‘blue sky days’ in 2011.”

 

So, numbers aside, what’s it like on the ground? The BBC shows it doesn’t seem to be blue skies.

 

“Well, this is what everybody in Beijing is talking about today. This gray pool of smoggy stuff that’s just hanging over the city.”

“Up high around here, you can see these skyscrapers being built, and they’re sort of vanishing up into the gray smog up there.”

 

Still, a columnist for Canada’s The Globe and Mail writes Beijing’s publicly-posted data marks a significant shift for the city’s often secretive government.

 

“This is a huge victory not just for the U.S. embassy but for the Chinese people – a victory for openness, for transparency, for access to information and, most important, for public accountability over bureaucracy, for putting the health of the people over the face of government officials.”

After Resisting, Beijing Releases Pollution Data

by Zach Toombs
0
Transcript
Jan 22, 2012

After Resisting, Beijing Releases Pollution Data

Image source: Foreign Policy

 

 

BY ZACH TOOMBS

 

 

Giving in to public pressure, Beijing began posting publicly-accessible data on the city’s air pollution Saturday. But, as MSNBC reports, the numbers are already drawing skepticism.

 

“Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant who has studied Beijing's pollution data since 2006, said he was ‘already a bit suspicious’ of Beijing's PM2.5 data. Within the 24-hour period to noon Saturday, Beijing reported seven hourly figures ‘at the very low level’ of 0.003 milligrams per cubic meter.”

 

Those postings conflict with data taken by the U.S. Embassy, which says the air quality was at “moderate” levels during the same time span. The embassy has taken its own hourly readings since 2009 and posted them on Twitter as @BeijingAir.

 

According to the embassy, over the past week, one day has averaged in the “very unhealthy” range, while two have registered as “hazardous” -- a level at which doctors recommend staying indoors.

 

Beijing has been measuring some types of air pollution for years. But they weren’t measuring pollutants less than 2.5 micrometers in size -- the type that can actually penetrate deep into the lungs. Foreign Policy notes Beijing is also more lenient in its measurements, writing:

 

“Pollution is a sensitive subject in China, with state-run media often explaining away the smell of glue and haze so thick it obscures even nearby buildings with the term ‘fog,’ and claiming, unbelievably, that Beijing enjoyed 274 ‘blue sky days’ in 2011.”

 

So, numbers aside, what’s it like on the ground? The BBC shows it doesn’t seem to be blue skies.

 

“Well, this is what everybody in Beijing is talking about today. This gray pool of smoggy stuff that’s just hanging over the city.”

“Up high around here, you can see these skyscrapers being built, and they’re sort of vanishing up into the gray smog up there.”

 

Still, a columnist for Canada’s The Globe and Mail writes Beijing’s publicly-posted data marks a significant shift for the city’s often secretive government.

 

“This is a huge victory not just for the U.S. embassy but for the Chinese people – a victory for openness, for transparency, for access to information and, most important, for public accountability over bureaucracy, for putting the health of the people over the face of government officials.”

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