China has an uphill battle ahead in its efforts to curb the country’s very serious air pollution problem. 2012 saw a drop in the emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, chemical oxygen, and ammonia nitrogen, and 2013 is projected to have an even greater drop. However, China is plagued by such severe air pollution that even major emissions reductions are not enough to affect change quickly.
This winter has been particularly difficult for China, with pollution levels so severe that people are often advised not to leave their homes and when they do, they are asked to don protective face masks.
Factories bellowing smoke, winds from the Gobi Desert, and exhaust from millions of vehicles on the roads contribute to the massive amount of pollution which can darken the skies for days on end.
Contingency measures are planned in order to combat the pollution, and these include limiting the production of certain types of vehicles, limiting emissions, and placing limitations on car usage. A ban is also planned for any vehicles registered before 2005, since they do not meet current exhaust emissions requirements.
Many Chinese cities, Beijing included, typically have pollution levels that exceed 500 on the PM2.5 intensity index. A level of 300 is considered hazardous, and the World Health Organization asserts a level of 20 is the maximum level.