Australia is getting hotter, Beijing more irrespirable

Australia on fireLast week two events caught my attention in the Asia Pacific region as they show that our climate is warming and our air is deteriorating. Both events look unrelated at first but aren’t as fossil fuels are in both cases the culprit.

The first one was the horrendous fires and temperatures witnessed in Australia. The situation is so bad the local meteorological agency had to add new colors to their charts for temperatures above 50°C (!).

The Australian fires are so large and so numerous that the continent lit up on satellite pictures by night as much as Europe does.

The second situation is in the People’s Republic of China as the air pollution in Beijing as reached record levels. To NPR :

We wrote earlier this week on the stifling pollution in Beijing that’s being called “airpocalypse.” According to an air monitoring station located at the U.S. Embassy there, particulate pollution was literally off the charts — with readings well into the 700s on a 0-500 scale.

NPR’s Louisa Lim reported from Beijing that the smog “has affected more than 30 cities in China, leading even the official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, to ask plaintively: ‘How can we get out of this suffocating siege of pollution?’ “

As usual Climate Progress brings interesting developments :

Beijing has tolerated abysmal air pollution for years as the price for China’s rapid economic development. But on January 12, the city’s air pollution reached unprecedented levels, even beyond the upper limits of the Air Quality Index, which reports daily air quality around the world.

The worst pollution on record is taking a serious toll on Beijing’s residents. According to one hospital official, the number of emergency room patients with heart attacks roughly doubled over the weekend. Hospitals are struggling to handle an influx of people suffering from respiratory and cardiac trouble.

As dictated by emergency procedure, the city banned government vehicles from the roads, and asked industrial companies to reduce their emissions. (…) In the past year, air pollution was responsible for 8,572 premature deaths in China. Studies show that air pollution is now more deadly than high cholesterol.

The main cause of the out-of-control pollution is burning coal, exacerbated by weather conditions trapping the smog. As Beijing-based engineer Vance Wagner notes, the bulk of the pollution originates in factories and power plants spawned by the breakneck speed of China’s unchecked industrialization.

This whole situation is completely crazy. Hundred of million of people are breathing air that literally kills them…

This points to another advantage of renewables over fossil fuels : a cleaner air, hence an increased life expectancy and quality of life.

When will our leaders get their act together ?