China’s Toxic Sky Erases In One Day All Of NZ’s Climate Change Efforts For A Whole Year?




In the world politics, it doesn’t pay to lead with your jaw, especially when you’re a tiny nation in the Pacific.

Opponents of the Kyoto Protocol have stated that New Zealand’s contribution to “reducing Global Warming” wouldn’t even go to one day of pollution in China, and therefore it was at best a token gesture.

Not to our collective checkbooks, of course.  And the effects of that dumb decision is still echoing through our economy just this week with the Fonterra milk chemical scare caused by a fertiliser farmers use to… wait for it… try to reduce greenhouse emissions.

It is therefore good to keep some perspective as to what on earth we’re doing to ourselves economically as a meaningless international token gesture, when people in Bejing can’t even breathe?  

The BBC reports:

All week in Beijing, in offices and homes, in lifts and shops, restaurants, taxis and buses, one topic has dominated conversation – Beijing’s foul air.

The descriptions of the grey smog that’s hung over the city get more and more extreme: “Airmageddon”, the “Airpocalypse”.

Walking out into Beijing’s streets is like plunging into a swirling soup. The pollution swathes the city, wreathing everything in grey.

To get a sense of it, take a look at this slideshow of before and after pictures that give a sense of what China’s toxic sky is really like.

A combination of coal emissions, dirty diesel and industrial gases, the smog has smothered everything for days. On Thursday, levels still hovered around the “very unhealthy” mark.

Just to get a sense as to how bad this pollution is, check this out:

As the official Xinhua news agency reported, more flights were delayed at Tianjin close to Beijing. Visibility in Shandong province south of Beijing was just 50m (164ft).

On Thursday, too, there were reported to be more than 100 cars in crashes in Beijing. The roads were icy and slippery, but poor visibility cannot have helped.

Visibility of 50 meters?  That’s equivalent to a pretty dense fog.

On Tuesday, 103 factories were ordered to shut down, and a third of government cars ordered off the roads to combat what was already being described as the worst January smog since 1954.

But even state-controlled media now say Beijing’s tough measures were ignored by city officials themselves.

This is going to get worse before it gets better.  New Zealand should look for pragmatic ways to improve our performance, but let’s not for one moment pretend our actions will have any measurable effect on a global scale.


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  • J.M

    Very good point, NZ’s efforts are the literal drop in the bucket. Have only been to Shanghai as far as China goes, but the air ‘quality’ was atrocious. Beijing much worse from all accounts. As deaths grow over there, look for more of China’s richer citizens to try to escape to places like NZ.

  • unpcnzcougar

    I have never believed in being part of the Kyoto Protocol. I first studied this back in the 90’s as one of my papers. What was very clear is that we could not make one shred of difference on a global scale. Only China, USA, India can have any impact. Why is this never pointed out to the public when the Greens start whinging? We simply can’t afford this as a tiny economy – it’s absolute lunacy!

  • Shazza

    I agree – we could lead the world in implementing effective methods for managing emissions, but the emphasis needs to be on effective, and we don’t need to be deluded about our footprint.

    However, lets not get trapped in a Prisoner’s Dilemma scenario, whereby we decide that because China’s lack of progress “cancels” our efforts, we may as well give up. If the whole world adopts that attitude, we’re in trouble.

    • Hazards001

      Why? Why should Kiwis be taxed to clean up the shitholes in India or China? Let them clean up there own mess or choke themselves to death but leave us out of it.

      What exactly are these so called emissions and footprint of ours doing to China or anyone else..including NZ?

  • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

    I was talking to Muesli Norman this morning. The future Deputy PM says by imposing carbon tax on sucker Kiwis, he feels the behaviour of Chinese people can be changed. He says – “Let us tax Kiwis with more eco taxes. That will open the eyes of the world”.

  • ConwayCaptain

    Some years ago I met someone who had been to a sales confin Beijing and the hotel was alongside a 6 lane highway. You coudnt see across it.
    All the people who came back to NZ from this conf had chest and throat problems for some weeks afterwards. What it does to the locals I hate to think

  • sheppy

    Can’t we send the whole Green Party there on a fact finding mission? If we’re really lucky they’ll lock them all up for a very long time

    • cows4me

      No point blaming the Melons sheppy, point the finger at the arseholes that continue to use this bullshit as an excuse to rob us. John Key, Nick ( fuck it’s getting hot ) Smith, head scientist or witchdoctor professor Gluckman and the merry robbers that make up the National Party.

      • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

        If you think Naked Emperor and his cronies are robbing us, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until Muesli and his crew take over the Government. They will suck your blood in the name of saving this world.

        • sheppy

          After seeing Norman whining to Key in question time because nothing was mentioned about tackling climate change in his speech, I’m firmly convinced that you shouldn’t underestimate how much he will damage the economy. Anything with even a tenuous link to climate change will be shut

  • kohibruce

    This pollution is largely about an absence of pollution control equipment on coal fired boilers that can be greatly mitigated (by installing pollution control equipment that reduces particulates). The green house gases (carbon dioxide in particular) are not the cause of the smog – the polluters are by and large the state owned enterprises of the socialist market economy.

    • Gazzaw

      The Chinese pollution mirrors exactly what happened in British industrial cities up until the 1950s. The Brits cleaned up their act without crippling the populace with targetted taxes & levies – they switched from burning coal to using electricity generated by nuclear power. Not rocket science.

      • JC

        The London Fog of 1952 killed 12,000 people and visibility dropped to on foot.

        That of course was a one off disaster but the London of the Victorians sounds pretty much like the China problem, ie coal emissions.

        However, the ‘smart as a whip’ Germans know all this and are currently building or planning dozens of new coal fired power plants to replace their dreadfully polluting nuclear power stations and to avoid the even more horrible fate that awaits if natural gas is used is extracted by fracking.

        So there you have the march of history.. London polluted for hundreds of years by coal and fixed by oil, Bejing repeating the experience and Germany having fixed its pollution problem with nuclear going back to a Victorian England solution with.. coal.

        • Gazzaw

          Dead right JC. The Germans had a great head start on everyone else having had their aging industrial plants totally demolished courtesy of the RAF and the USAF.

  • Chartist

    NZ a tiny nation in the Pacific – yes! So when will people in NZ come to understand the fact that the Nth Island and Sth Island make up two islands in the Pacific. NZ could never ever make a difference in world events or economic trends. It is subject to the strong winds of global trends and events without any option otherwise. Yet there appears to be some sort of gross belief in Govt that they are important enough to expend the people’s money and future earnings on useless agenda’s that are for nothing less than pursuing their political careers in NZ for later positions outside NZ. There is no accountability in NZ for Govt to change decisions. Public figures appointed by the people should act for the people and not political careers. The K Protocol was just a “look good” addition to a few CV’s for some politicians looking wider afield for themselves.

  • Lofty

    My wife and I have traveled China quite extensively and interestingly enough the smog is an issue throughout the country to a lessor or greater degree.

    Some days you can visit the wall and not see 100 meters, on others you can see forever, depends on the wind.

    Travel by train past the coal fired power stations and you get an understanding why the air is so foul, combined with excessive numbers of cars in the main cities.

    It all hurts your throat.

  • Whafe

    The last paragraph in Cam’s post says it all really…..

    Yes we as a country are aesthetically beautiful and with loads of space, but in reality take that away and we are a bunch of fuckwits to the world… Yep, pretty much 3rd world.

    Yep, we need to be seen to be improving with sustainability etc, of which is happening, but if fuck chop Norman thinks we can improve all the total lack of sustainability in the big 3 countries, he is more deluded than he thinks.

    Give me strength.