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US Embassy Categorizes Beijing Air Quality As 'Crazy Bad' 270

Posted by samzenpus
from the it-totally-sucks dept.
digitaldc writes "Pollution in Beijing was so bad Friday the US embassy, which has been independently monitoring air quality, ran out of conventional adjectives to describe it, at one point saying it was 'crazy bad.' The embassy later deleted the phrase, saying it was an 'incorrect' description and it would revise the language to use when the air quality index goes above 500, its highest point and a level considered hazardous for all people by US standards. The hazardous haze has forced schools to stop outdoor exercises, and health experts asked residents, especially those with respiratory problems, the elderly and children, to stay indoors."

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US Embassy Categorizes Beijing Air Quality As 'Crazy Bad'

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  • No kidding. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @01:30PM (#34298892) Journal

    When I was in Beijing a few years ago, after a while the days there started to feel kind of like the day before you're going to catch a cold.

  • by Christoph (17845) <chris@cgstock.com> on Sunday November 21, 2010 @01:36PM (#34298944) Homepage Journal

    I found it hard to believe or describe when I visited (in 2004). From one block north, the Forbidden City was obscured by smog on a cloudless day [cgstock.com]. It otherwise felt like you were smoking all the time.

  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @01:39PM (#34298972)
    When will the youth of China decide they've had enough of conformity and respect for authority? China has raised it standard of living in recent decades but they still suffer from a severe lack of basic freedoms, corruption, and choking pollution. The civil rights movement and Vietnam triggered the events of the 60's in the USA. When will the same happen in China?
  • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @01:44PM (#34299008) Homepage

    The bad air quality is a prime example of an externalized cost.

    Many people claim the reason for offshoring is wages, but that's only part of it...

    Much of the savings comes from the ability to operate a factory in China under less stringent rules - less labor protections, less safety, less pollution controls, etc.

    Eventually China will crack down on polluters (they already do on an ad hoc basis, such as briefly during the 2008 Olympics) improving air quality, but also increasing production costs, which will then push many companies to offshore to the next cheaper place where such costs can again be externalized.

    Ron

    p.s. why is the comment entry window so narrow? More breakage - Slashdot was more usable in 1998 than it is now, but hey I guess this is progress... bah!

  • Re:Atlanta (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @01:46PM (#34299020)
    No. The only time we hit "crazy bad" is when you are describing the pollen count in the spring, when every car in the city turns yellow.
  • Re:Crazy bad.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2010 @02:02PM (#34299136)

    Only Beijing?
    You want bad?
      Visit Shanghai!
    Many sunny days filtered through crap.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2010 @02:57PM (#34299502)

    No way. Recommending against travel is one thing, but the embassy is the island of refuge for Americans abroad.

    My solution: look into the cost needed to make the embassy's interior airtight or at least positive pressure with 'good air' and leave it there with airlocks.

  • by Chemisor (97276) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:13PM (#34299584)

    In laissez faire economical system all property is private. When I own a plot of land, I own everything above and below it, including the air and water flowing through it. When you pollute the air and it drifts over my land, you are committing vandalism against my property, and are criminally liable for the damages you cause. That's a much stronger protection than what you get from the EPA.

  • Re:No kidding. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xnpu (963139) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:32PM (#34299700)

    I've been living in Beijing for a number of years now. The embassy started measuring the air pollution when the Olympics became a topic. At that time the air quality had already been improved dramatically compared to what it was before. Although the 500+ now is the worst they ever measured, and certainly worse than what we had during the Olympics, it's still relatively clean to what it used to be a in the pre-Olympic decade.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:43PM (#34299796)

    I think "off-scale high" would be appropriate here.

  • Re:No kidding. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by St.Creed (853824) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:57PM (#34299922)

    It's a good reason that I never go there unless it's end of september/october. Any other time of the year just sucks even worse. Try sneezing after spending a few hours outside and see what's there: black soot.

    The measure the Chinese govt took to clamp down pollution a bit was to order everyone to only use their car on even or odd days. So a lot of people bought two cars, since you can usually either afford several, or none. There's hardly a middle ground with that in China.

    I guess other measures were evaded in similar ways after a while. I expect things to get worse before they get better.

    But one thing helps with this: the leaders and their families live in Beijing too. This alone will guarantee that more measures will be taken, once the chainsmokers on the board die out.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @05:14PM (#34300418)

    One place where "conservatives" and "libertarians" agree is that the "free market" is better suited to protecting the environment than the government,

    Spare us the hyperbole deliberately simplified to the point of misrepresentation. A Libertarian would point out that air pollution is a standard "tragedy of the commons" failure and would propose a market-based solution like emissions trading [wisegeek.com] as a means of stopping polluters from treating the damage they do to property they do not own as an economic externality.

  • by Froboz23 (690392) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @08:09PM (#34301414)
    "Shared insanity is an excellent term for the brief turn away from Conservatism (NOT Republicans) that the country underwent, and is now correcting."

    Correcting indeed. With the Republicans now controlling the House, they get to appoint a new chair to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. The front-runners for the position are:

    Joe Barton - He's the guy who apologized to BP for their cruel treatment by the US Federal Government. He also received more campaign contributions from the oil industry than any other member of the House, which makes him an expert on energy policy.

    John Shimkus - He quoted the book of Genesis in House testimony as evidence that God promised He would never let bad things happen to the Earth, and He should be entrusted to protect the environment.

    Nope, no insanity there.

    Here's details about it, from a respected news source:

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/366030/november-17-2010/chair-apparent [colbertnation.com]
  • Pollution in China (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jazman_777 (44742) on Monday November 22, 2010 @01:13AM (#34303012) Homepage
    A year old, but I doubt things have changed: http://www.chinahush.com/2009/10/21/amazing-pictures-pollution-in-china/ [chinahush.com]
  • by Gauchito (657370) on Monday November 22, 2010 @09:23AM (#34305000)
    "the failures coming when each and every one of the industries you mentioned had heavy regulation induced and large government players involved (like Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac)"

    Whoa, whoa, whoa.... Fannie and Freddie didn't cause the subprime mess. They were actually pretty late in coming into it. I was involved with that industry for three years, and I don't remember ever seeing a subprime loan bond issued by those agencies. The bonds I do remember seeing are a who's who of the banks and investment houses that closed down (with the notable exception of Goldman).

    In fact, a big part of the failing in that industry is to do to the agencies that are the market's attempt at self-regulation: the rating agencies. The pain would not have been so widespread, and the flow of capital would have been much more limited, had the rating agencies correctly modelled stresses on the portfolios of these bonds. The entire industry CDO industry would have been nipped in the bud.

    But they were making a mint with CDO issuance (accounting for a small part of their business but a much larger part of their fees) where they were paid by the issuer of the bonds, instead of investors! Imagine how comfortable you would feel buying medication from a company that has three different regulators to pick from and has to pay the regulator for the analysis done on their drug, and the regulators make more money the more drugs get released by these companies.

    Some of the problem was caused by regulation, like the need to mark to market, but these regulations exacerbated a problem that was created entirely by the industry itself: it was a classic case of no one bothered doing the due diligence on the loans, because everyone figures someone else had done. The loan issuers figures no one would be buying the loans if they didn't want them, the securitizers were expecting some basic standards in the underwritings of the loans, and the investors were expecting the rating agencies and the issuing companies to ensure the loans were as expected by the product they were buying (the whole incentive, of course, being that the company wouldn't shoot itself in the foot by issuing securities backed by bad loans, the rating agencies were putting their reputations on the line, etc). Of course, in the end, none of these systems of internal checks worked, and companies were actually willing to risk everything they were supposed to be protecting for the money they were making for the simple reason that companies are run by people. As long as people can be irrational, measure risk incorrectly by favoring the potentially more profitable route (ask casinos why they are still in business when everyone knows they skew the odds in their own favor), markets will never be the efficient panacea some libertarians seem to think it is.

    The market's role is to match demand with supply, and is best left on it's own when doing that, but "the market" isn't ephemeral, it's people. People always need to be regulated because with the market we're trying to channel their self-interest into common good (by having them provide goods and services others need/want), but that same self-interest can cause the system to break down if not managed. The government's self-interest in getting elected and always being blamed when something happens makes it the natural player in being that regulator.

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