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Beijing’s 2008 pollution crisis


CHINA WATCH As China starts preparing for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, one big problem stands in its way: ensuring the hundreds of world-class athletes don’t arrive on the track with face masks on to cope with the pollution. As a feature in this month’s Wired highlights, the city is resorting to a range of measures to cope: shutting down power plants, building subways, planting trees and installing electric buses.

But it might not be enough.

Just one problem: The Olympics are scheduled for August. That’s when the winds change direction, blowing in foul air from the heavily industrialized Hebei province and trapping it against the surrounding mountains. A recent study by US and Chinese researchers, using the most advanced atmospheric models, found that up to 70 percent of Beijing’s summer particulate pollution originates outside the city. In other words, you could shut down the city, close the highways, turn off the power, and still have a seriously bad air day.

Greenbang highlighted how bad the air is in a recent post. Now imagine being a marathon runner chasing a new world record. We’ll be watching to see how the city gets on.

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