What Life Is Like in Beijing During China's Worst Pollution Crisis Ever

The “airpocalypse” of smog swirling over Chinese cities has reached its most dangerous levels yet. Beijing issued its first-ever red alert today, closing schools and taking cars off the road. How bad is it? According to EPA guidelines levels are at 6: “Everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion.”


While the short-term effects of being exposed to smog like this are scary—irregular heartbeat, asthma, respiratory problems—even lower levels can have devastating long term effects. In China, about 4,000 people die from premature deaths due to pollution every day. That’s 1.6 million people a year.

At the COP21 summit this week in Paris, China’s leaders have made some pretty significant pledges to close its coal-fired power plants, a huge contributor to the poor air quality. Let’s hope those pledges stay intact.


There’s absolutely no question something must be done about the pollution caused by coal usage around the World. But I have to ask a question: When we finally do something about coal usage, what happens to the (largely) poor or under-educated people who work the coal mines that supply the coal for the World?

Will those nations who depend on coal help educate these workers so they can find gainful employment so they can support their families and create new jobs for them, or will we have a massive increase World-wide in unemployed workers?

No one that I’ve seen on the news seems willing to talk about that subject. But if we are to do something about coal pollution, then we have to address this problem.