Heavy Smog Blankets Northern China
People in Northern China are suffering the very real effects of the country's air pollutants right now.
The government there has just issued the highest smog alert of the year so far. Matt Rivers reports from Baoding, China, the country's most polluted city.
--REPORTER PKG-AS FOLLOWS--
THESE ARE STREETS CHOKED WITH POLLUTION….THICK ENOUGH TO SEE… TO BURN YOUR EYES…TO LEAVE AN ACRID TASTE IN YOUR MOUTH. THIS IS BAODING, CHINA'S MOST POLLUTED CITY WHERE DAILY LIFE GOES ON UNDER THE CLOAK OF A TOXIC SHROUD. ZHAO SHUANG GREW UP HERE. HE'S RAISING HIS YOUNG SON HERE. AND THE AIR THEY BREATHE IS ALWAYS ON HIS MIND.
(Zhao Shuang/father) "When the pollution gets really serious, we can't even see the buildings next to us. You can't even describe how bad the smell is"
LIKE THOUSANDS OF OTHERS HERE, HE GETS READY FOR WORK EACH MORNING AND HEADS OUT. THIS DAY, THE AIR ISN'T THAT BAD…BUT YOU CAN STILL SEE THE LINGERING HAZE IN THE FRIGID AIR FROM 30 FLOORS UP. ON THE GROUND, MANY PEOPLE WEAR MASKS, AS A COAL POWER PLANT CHURNS OUT TOXINS ABOVE. ZHAO WORKS IN THE ENERGY SECTOR TOO…THOUGH HIS FACTORY HOPES TO MAKE COAL OBSOLETE.
THIS IS YINGLI SOLAR, ONE OF CHINA'S LARGEST SOLAR POWER COMPANIES, RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF BAODING…AND BUSINESS IS BOOMING. THE COMPANY SAYS THEY HAVE PLANS TO MORE THAN DOUBLE THEIR CURRENT CAPACITY BY 2020.
OF THEIR SOLAR PANELS HAVE THE CAPACITY TO GENERATE MORE THAN 1000 TIMES MORE POWER THAN THEY DID IN 1998…AND PLANS ARE TO MORE THAN DOUBLE THEIR CURRENT CAPACITY BY 2020. THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH TO POWER ABOUT 60 MILLION HOMES.
SKIES LIKE THESE HAVE PROMPTED A SURGE IN DEMAND THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY FOR CLEANER ENERGY. IN 2014, CHINESE COMPANIES INVESTED OVER 80 BILLION US DOLLARS IN EVERYTHING FROM HYDROELECTRIC TO WIND TO SOLAR PROJECTS. NO COUNTRY IN THE WORLD INVESTED MORE.
(Matt Rivers, CNN Correspondent) "And yet despite all of that, renewable energy accounts for only 10 percent or so of China's energy supply. This is a country where coal is still king. Many families keep piles of coal like this one to burn for warmth during the winter months. It is a major pollutant but it is also cheap, and it is efficient, and because of that, it accounts for between 60 and 70 percent of china's energy supply."
COAL USE IN ACTUALLY SLOWED IN 2014, BUT THE COUNTRY STILL PRODUCES AND CONSUMES NEARLY AS MUCH AS THE REST OF THE WORLD COMBINED. CHINA IS THE WORLD'S GREENHOUSE GAS EMITTER, BUT THE GOVERNMENT HAS SAID ITS EMISSIONS WILL PEAK BY 2030. TO HIT THAT GOAL, THEY'LL NEED THE HELP OF COMPANIES LIKE YINGLI, AND WORKERS LIKE ZHAO SHUANG.
FOR HIM, POLLUTION IS PERSONAL. HE WORKS 60 HOURS A WEEK…AND WALKS HOME EACH DAY WITH HIS SON.
China issued a smog alert of orange on Sunday.
That's the highest of the year and second only to red. Pollution readings in China's capital city of Beijing reached about 17 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization over the weekend.
The orange level alert requires industrial plants to reduce or shut down and large trucks are banned from the roads.
Website: Baoding Travel Guide
Magazine Article & Map Quiz: Scholastic News, A Scare in the Air, March 24, 2014
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Lesson Plan: Understanding Air: Air Pollution and Modeling Pollutants with LEGO® Bricks
Website: Educgreen, Air Pollution