China has been suffering from high levels of air pollution and smog for several years as the country struggles to cope with its’ own rapid industrialization and poor history in environmental legislation. Although it has fervently been working on rectifying its’ environmental issues, moving its’ energy portfolio towards a more renewable agenda, shutting down coal plants and investing over $364 Billion into the environmental sector, China is still dealing with its what people have described as an “airpocalypse”. But why?
A new study by atmospheric scientists explains that melting sea ice in the Arctic and increasing snowfall in Siberia have altered a large-scale weather pattern that usually provides for continuous airflow across Russia and China. This means that instead of being swept out of the cities, the pollution is now staying put and stagnating, increasing the health hazards and environmental situation of the country’s major population hubs.
The chief concern of the Chinese health department is currently PM2.5, small pollution particles known to cause severe health problems, and has been recorded in staggeringly high numbers in Chinese cities since 2012. By some estimates, the dense air pollution that clouds these cities is contributing to the deaths of over 90,000 people every year.
However, the changing weather pattern isn’t only affecting China, as scientists have shown that the same meteorological event has nudged the usual monsoon winds away from Japan as well. That being said, scientists have been quick to warn that the current changes in Asia are only the start of further climate degradation, as Judah Cohen, a climatologist working at the Atmospheric and Environmental Research Centre in Lexington explains:
“A rapidly changing Arctic has likely influenced and will continue to influence our weather and society in ways we just never considered previously.”
Whilst it might take a bit more time and research to determine how other major weather patterns will be affected, one thing is for sure: China’s pollution problem just got a lot harder to deal with. Despite the rise in production of air purifiers and face masks as well as the gigantic push by Chinese officials to embrace sustainable development and environmentally friendly practices, there is still a long road ahead until they managed to reduce pollution levels to an acceptable standard.