‘Airpocalypse’ | Beijing reported its first ever Red Alert, China’s most poisonous smog rating on their four-tier warning scale
Well, first thing’s first. Air + Style returned to Beijing’s Bird’s Nest for the first stop on the three-part tour, and other than the smog, the event was a huge success. Local fans filled the massive stadium for the event, which was originally built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The world’s best slopestyle riders took center stage for the contest and Max Parrot, Mark McMorris, and Sven Thorgren grabbed the podium at the Beijing event. China’s interest in action sports is growing, and with the winning bid for the 2022 Olympics, Beijing is becoming more of an international hub for action sports events, like Air + Style. But the question lends itself: Is Beijing really the safest place for our athletes to train and compete when the air quality is reaching poisonous levels?
China has reported the country’s Northern cities, Beijing included, to have perennially suffered rising levels of smog due to polluted air from coal-burning factories in the region. Obviously, winter months typically bring higher levels of air pollution because more coal is burned for heat.
Last week, the city reported an orange alert, indicating a “very unhealthy” or “hazardous” level of pollution in the air and escalated the level to a red alert today, Monday, December 7th. The red alert indicates authorities have forecast more than three consecutive days of severe smog, according to the Associated Press. Schools have been encouraged to close and restrictions on traffic and factories have been put in place, while all citizens are strongly encouraged to wear a mask outdoors at all times.
Two years ago, the country put into place this four-tiered rating system to evaluate the smog levels. This week is the first time the scale has reached the red alert tier. As of this morning in Beijing, the air pollution level (measured by micrograms per cubic meter, PM2.5) was reported near 600ppm (parts per million) and rising. According to the World Health Organization, a safe air quality level should not exceed 25ppm.
The country is the world’s largest carbon emitter, but has implemented a five-year plan to upgrade their coal power plants. Chinese president Xi Jinping said during the U.N. climate conference in Paris last week: “China pledges to peak CO2 emissions by around 2030 and strive to achieve it as soon as possible…This requires strenuous efforts, but we have confidence and resolve to fulfill our commitments,” he said. “China upholds the values of friendship, justice and shared interests, and takes an active part in international cooperation on climate change.”