China’s problems are drastic, but they are not as unique as people think they are. In fact, most people forget about the major problems London had in the 1950s. England’s intense burst of industrialization culminated in a disaster in 1952 known as the Great Smog. Over 4000 Londoners died after breathing five days’ worth of toxic pollutants. The smog was caused by all the coal burning furnaces in homes and factories working overtime that December due to an unusual cold snap.
It was only in 1956, when Britain instituted the Clean Air Act that regulations began in earnest.
According to his research, Michael McElroy, a Harvard professor of environmental sciences, believes that London’s pollution was actually blacker than China’s current haze.
The Chinese government has stepped up to address the severe pollution and recently announced limits on pollutants and a vow to increase monitoring.
In her thoughtful New York Times article, writer Kate Galbraith speculated that China has a long way to go to truly make headway since the pollution issues are directly related to industrialization and economic prosperity, just as they were during England’s industrial revolution.