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Smog grounds Beijing flights

Smog grounds Beijing flights

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A growth economy powered by fossil fuels literally choked itself today, as China's capital cancels hundreds of flights amid smog and bad weather.

Forbidden City. Allowable smog.

A growth economy powered by fossil fuels literally choked itself today, as Beijing International Airport cancelled hundreds of flights amid smog and bad weather, several news outlets are reporting.

The conditions, which included fog, also forced the closure of motorways in northern China according to the BBC.

“In Beijing the fog was made worse by air pollution and the US embassy there said particulate levels were ‘hazardous’,” the BBC reported. “The Chinese capital is considered to be one of the most polluted cities in the world by international organisations, including the UN. The high level of air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, particularly coal, and from vehicle emissions.”

The Financial Times (subscription may be necessary) pointed out that the U.S. on Sunday issued a much higher pollution reading reading than the Chinese government did, because it monitors smaller and more hazardous particulates than does China.

“Pollution has been a growing concern for China, which is home to 21 of the world’s 100 most polluted cities, as environmental degradation inflicts an ever higher economic and social cost,” the FT reported. “This year has been marked by a series of protests over pollution concerns, the largest of which in Dalian attracted more than 10,000 people.

“Smog is not uncommon in Beijing, however residents have grown increasingly vocal about air pollution in recent months because of a yawning discrepancy between Beijing’s official pollution data and the air pollution data published by the US embassy. On Sunday, when heavy, acrid smog descended on Beijing, the municipal government described it as ‘light pollution,’ although the US embassy’s data said it was off the charts.”

Nearly 500 flights had been cancelled or delayed by Monday evening, the FT reported.

Photo: Brian Jeffrey Beggerly via Flickr

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure