Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Something to Celebrate

The countdown to the Olympics really begins now with 2008 finally here.

And the Chinese are celebrating another milestone. You can't have too many of those when the world's attention will be focused on Beijing in just over eight months.

The city just managed to have 246 days of "blue sky" this year, beating the 2007 target of 245. The last day of the year was relatively clear.

I've tried to do a bit of research on how a "blue sky" is calculated, and it's very complicated. Apparently it has to do with the number of pollutant particles in the air. But there's no straight-forward calculation for the description of something that should be simple enough when it's called a "blue sky" day.

You'd think Beijing would flunk it easily with its hazy gray skies most of the time, especially in the summer.

However according to the Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, Beijing is improving its air quality every year. It claims back in 1998 when it started the "Defending the Blue Sky" campaign, there were only 100 "blue sky" days.

The environmental watchdog adds 2007 only saw three heavily-polluted days, compared with 13 the year before.

By replacing coal heaters with natural gas ones, and lowering transit fares so that more people will take subways, the capital believes this has contributed to the increase in "blue sky" days.

And officials say January, September, October and November had the most "blue sky" days. But what about the other months, particularly the ones in the summer? And what about a few days ago when the air quality was so bad that children and adults with asthma were warned not to go outside?

Senior officials have told meteorologists their jobs are on the line when it comes to accurate weather forecasting.

So either the scientists are fudging the numbers, or the officials are moving the goal posts. What Beijing considers a "blue sky" would never fly in North America or Europe. The air quality measurements would probably go off the charts according to their standards.

One wonders if the "blue sky" count is a PR exercise for the foreigners or the Chinese.

Either way it's spin that could soon unravel.

1 comment:

ks said...

at least this is a good start, a polluted country like china starts to do something about it. years ago the los angeles olympic had the same worry and it was solved. hope this time beijing will do the same.