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Earth Science

Watching China Turn Off the Pollution 427

Posted by kdawson
from the like-flipping-a-switch dept.
NewbieV points out coverage of the effort to assess Beijing's air pollution control efforts. Quote from one of the investigators: "This will be a very interesting experiment that can never happen again." Here's the main project scientist's site on the monitoring effort, and Newsweek coverage that brings out a paradoxical effect of reducing pollution on global warming. "Unmanned aerial vehicles are measuring emissions of soot and other forms of black carbon. The instruments are observing pollution transport patterns as Beijing enacts its 'great shutdown' for the Summer Olympic Games. Chinese officials have compelled reductions in industrial activity by as much as 30 percent and cuts in automobile use by half to safeguard the health of competing athletes immediately before and during the games."
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Watching China Turn Off the Pollution

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  • Watching China (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11, 2008 @02:51PM (#24558807)

    What about the American athletes who got in trouble for wearing breathing masks due to the (still) poor quality of the air?

    Is the Olympic Committee going to step up and make sure future governments who host the Olympics don't get to prevent the athletes from protecting themselves?

    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:00PM (#24558923) Homepage Journal
      Hey, I have an idea: let's develop a series of competitive events dedicated to showing off the pinnacles of raw physical endurance and human health...

      ...and then host it in one of the world's most polluted cities!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lars T. (470328)

        Hey, I have an idea: let's develop a series of competitive events dedicated to showing off the pinnacles of raw physical endurance and human health... ...and then host it in one of the world's most polluted cities!

        Mexico City (1968)? Los Angeles (1984)? Athens (2004)?

    • Re:Watching China (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:01PM (#24558929)

      Why would the athletes need protection? It is not like the air quality has been worse than 12.1 times [ap.org] (Aug 10) the WHO limit of 50 micrograms/m^3. And it isn't like independent readings are tracking [bbc.co.uk].

      It is all just 'mist.' Does anybody think that China would ever consider cooking the books (on Aug 10 AP measured 604 micrograms/m^3, the BBC measured 278 in another location, and Beijings Air Quality Index which is supposed to be the highest of many different readings measured 82).

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by raymansean (1115689)
        that is 82 times the WHO limit...
      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:14PM (#24559059) Homepage Journal
        "It is all just 'mist.' Does anybody think that China would ever consider cooking the books (on Aug 10 AP measured 604 micrograms/m^3, the BBC measured 278 in another location, and Beijings Air Quality Index which is supposed to be the highest of many different readings measured 82)."

        Don't worry...it isn't real. It is some kind of CGI 'mist'. They wipe it clean electronically for the games.

        :)

      • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:08PM (#24559681)
        ...they're speaking German.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Heh - brilliant! Though I fear bilingual jokes are wasted on a community whose most common second language is probably C++ :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by badasscat (563442)

        It is all just 'mist.'

        What you actually see probably is mist. I've been seeing a lot of western commentators looking at Beijing cityscapes and saying "look at that smog!"

        Anyone who's been to any part of Asia in summer will tell you about the humidity. It's nothing that anyone in most western countries can understand. You can see the air, even in completely rural areas. (Walking through it is like walking through pea soup.) My wife's family lives on a rice paddy in rural Japan and the air looks exactly

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SL Baur (19540)

          My wife's family lives on a rice paddy in rural Japan and the air looks exactly the same as it does in Beijing all summer long.

          (I've never been to Beijing in the summer, but I was in Beijing the week before the IOC got there and what I saw and breathed made Los Angeles and Tokyo look like pristine rural parks).

          It varies from place to place. Tokyo and the Kanto plains is quite polluted even in the rice paddies. So is Osaka/Kobe and Kansai. Higher up is clear.

          You do not see the air in the Philippines, usually even in Manila despite the humidity.

          The point is when the humidity level is that high, you can't tell visually how polluted a city is.

          And that is nonsense.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Broken Toys (1198853)

      The irony is the Olympic Committee gave the Americans the masks because they complained about the air pollution.

      I expect the "Daily Show" will have a field day with that.

    • Is the Olympic Committee going to step up and make sure future governments who host the Olympics don't get to prevent the athletes from protecting themselves?

      What a dumb thing to say. They didn't get into any trouble with the Chinese government nor is anybody preventing them from "protecting themselves". They were criticized in the media for a potentially offensive gesture and they apologized, that's all. As one US athlete put it "You don't come in a host's home and plug your nose as you walk through the
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        After all, the air is not that bad.

        I beg to differ [wikipedia.org]. Look at how Hong Kong and Singapore warn about [wikipedia.org] levels higher than 200! Singapore's standard writes:

        PSI levels above 400 may be life-threatening to ill and elderly persons. Healthy people may experience adverse symptoms that affect normal activity.

        I wonder what they would write about levels above 550!

        The air quality in Beijing is little better than being on the outskirts of a forest fire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      Is the Olympic Committee going to step up and make sure future governments who host the Olympics don't get to prevent the athletes from protecting themselves?

      A more useful idea would be to be proactive: make local health factors like air pollution a critical consideration in selecting a site.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kozz (7764)

      Honestly, I didn't entirely understand the furor over the athletes wearing masks. So what???

      Within the last year, I visited Asia including Taiwan (*cough* sorry, that's "Chinese Taipei"), Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Shanghai -- although not Beijing. Throughout my travels I saw a number of locals wearing masks in different places: bicyclist or motorcyclists, pedestrians, people in airports and on planes.

      Where did all this commentary originate? I'd think that the Chinese people wouldn't think very much of the

    • Re:Watching China (Score:5, Informative)

      by prgrmr (568806) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:25PM (#24559883) Journal
      It wasn't the masks so much as the fact that they were black and the t-shirts the athletes were wearing at the time that pissed people off:

      http://voices.washingtonpost.com/livecoverage/2008/08/china_bloggers_to_us_cyclists_1.html [washingtonpost.com]
  • Summary: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Monday August 11, 2008 @02:54PM (#24558839)

    Carbon Dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) increase heat retention. Soot (and other opaque particulate matter) reflect heat before it reaches us. The trick is determining the effect of each in isolation. The temporary reduction in soot emissions in Beijing gives us a chance to see the effect of soot in isolation (or close to it).

    This isn't exactly new ground (we've previously observed the effect of increased particulate matter in the wake of large volcanic eruptions), but it's one of the few times we see it in reverse, triggered by human activity.

    • Re:Summary: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pilgrim23 (716938) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:18PM (#24559103)

      It would seem to me, not that I understand this being a layman, but, it would seem, that the effect of the year of burning oil fires in Kuwait after Sadaam's people torched them at the end of Gulf 1 would have been the single greatest contributor to global warming, carbon footprint, or whatever the term du jours is. How does Bejing rank compared to that massive injection?

      • Re:Summary: (Score:5, Informative)

        by regularstranger (1074000) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:13PM (#24559737)
        A short description of the environmental problems associated with the Kuwaiti oil fires found here [american.edu]

        According to the article, about 6 million barrels were burned a day at the disaster's peak, and it lasted about 8 months. Worldwide oil production is about 80 million barrels per day (don't know what it was in 1991). While the Kuwaiti fires were a local environmental disaster, and the poor burning quality produced a lot of soot, I think the global impact is still nowhere near the global impact of worldwide oil use.
        I couldn't find good numbers for Beijing, but as someone else already pointed out, that Kuwaiti oil was going to get burned one way or another.
      • Re:Summary: (Score:4, Insightful)

        by myrdos2 (989497) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:15PM (#24559769)
        It was all being burnt before there were oil fires. In fact, it's all still being burnt today. (Just check your tailpipe for proof).

        No, the wells could only have increased emissions if the fires were removing oil from the ground faster than the operational, non-burning wells were.

        Of course, you could always argue about catalytic converters and whether torching a barrel of oil is more or less harmful than burning the equivalent amount of gasoline, or what percentage of the oil is used to make plastic. But most of the carbon goes right into the air. The oil fires were just cutting out the middle-man, as it were.
        • Of course, you could always argue about catalytic converters and whether torching a barrel of oil is more or less harmful than burning the equivalent amount of gasoline, or what percentage of the oil is used to make plastic. But most of the carbon goes right into the air. The oil fires were just cutting out the middle-man, as it were.

          It's necessary to consider that the Kuwait oil fires were burning roughly 2/3rds of the daily US oil consumption [doe.gov] (as of 2007) across a relatively small land mass. It's easy to

    • Re:Summary: (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jonny_eh (765306) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:59PM (#24559573)

      This actually, isn't unprecedented. Some scientists actually reported a drastic change on 9/11/2001. With all the airplanes in North America grounded, there was an immense reduction in global dimming.

      Check it: http://archives.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/08/07/contrails.climate/index.html [cnn.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by camperslo (704715)

      A recent episode of Nova Science Now on PBS covered studies done while there was no US air traffic immediately after the 9/11 attack. As it turns out, the vapor trails from planes do contribute significantly enough to cloud cover to cause a reduction in sunlight hitting the ground.
      There also were some studies relating to the evaporation of water. As it turns out, evaporation rates are not only affected by such things as ambient temperature and wind, but also by photons hitting the water surface. At some

    • by hey! (33014) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:46PM (#24560161) Homepage Journal

      Well, the news media couldn't exactly pass up this opportunity to confuse people even more on the global climate change issue, could they?

      How amazingly stupid could an editor be, to take what is a straightforward, well known aspect of local climate, and then title an article with a spurious question like "Is Health Air Bad?" The answer is, he'd have to be so amazingly stupid and ignorant, that it must be deliberate. It's a blessing that nobody mentioned to the reporter that the brownish-yellow particulate haze probably contains high levels of ozone. That would have been yet another opportunity to confound different issues and further muddy public understanding (along with the manufacturers of ozone generators).

      For years there have been studies decrying Americans' scientific ignorance, Still, if anything it's amazing they aren't even more ignorant and apathetic than they are, given that their major news sources are, to all appearances, trying to make them more confused about science than they were.

  • Perhaps (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday August 11, 2008 @02:57PM (#24558877)

    You also noticed the oil price falling too. Watch what happens to that after the olympics.

     

    • Re:Perhaps (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday August 11, 2008 @05:17PM (#24560465) Homepage Journal

      Today, I heard a very interesting comment on an early-morning business/investment radio show that I listen to:

      One of the hosts was talking about how the Chinese stock market has gone South lately because of this "Great Shutdown", but he was trying to give his listeners encouragement by telling them that as soon as the Olympics are over, China will go back to their polluting ways and then all will be well for the investment community that depends on China in so many ways.

      It was a very clear window into a world where the business community absolutely prays for the bad things to happen to most of us, in order for the very very few to get rich. Honestly, there was a pause in the host's spiel during which it almost seemed as if he realized what he was saying, and the moral implications of wishing environmental disaster on a billion people so that he and his friends can offset their sub-prime losses.

      It made me realize that there are worse things than a severe downturn in the stock market. It might even do some good, except for the fact that so many of us have been suckered into putting our retirement savings into that fool's game. Can you imagine what might have happened if we'd listened to Bush and McCain and had privatized Social Security?

      Tell you what: China's economy is going to come on strong in the next few decades, and the US is thinking it's going to go along for the ride. The only problem is, once the Chinese figure out what this "economic boom" really means, they are going to be really really pissed.

  • Excellent (Score:2, Funny)

    by roman_mir (125474)

    So next time someone complaints about air pollution, we can just tell him that this is our fight against the global warming.

    Let's all pollute the air, the Earth will cool down, then we can stop polluting I guess.

  • by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Monday August 11, 2008 @02:59PM (#24558907)
    Particles in pollution that enter the atmosphere cool the Earth by shielding radiation from the sun and bouncing it back out to space. Cutting down on the release of these particles by improving air quality, which China is doing right now and which the West has been doing for some time, actually diminishes this shield and the Earth's temperature rises, Ramanathan and others say.

    Cue the rationalists who will use this as yet another argument against the climatologists and environmental "whackjobs" who are trying to destroy capitalism in order to protct their "American" way of life.

    To paraphrase my wife: "It doesn't matter if global warming is true or not. We all want cleaner air."
    SHe was talking to right winger who was "educated" (told) by a talk radio host that global warming is a myth created by anti-capitalist environmental whackjobs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      "It doesn't matter if global warming is true or not. We all want cleaner air."

      Except that "fighting global warming" isn't about cleaner air. It is about reducing "greenhouse gases", primarily CO2, which is an essential part of the atmosphere. So, it does matter if "global warming" is true, because people like Al Gore are asking us to cripple our economies to reduce CO2 emissions, which are only a problem if global warming is a problem.
      Which is a question that I rarely seen discussed. If Global Warming is true, is it really a problem?

      • by HertzaHaeon (1164143) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:32PM (#24559261) Homepage
        Decreasing CO2 levels will have more benefits than a cooler climate, as many articles and studies will tell you. It would lower ocean acidification, for one thing.
      • by asc99c (938635) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:45PM (#24559407) Homepage

        The science says definitively it is real and it is a problem - the melting icecaps will raise sea levels and flood a lot of coastal cities.

        An interesting question though is whether it's a problem for us or the planet. Certainly the planet has been a lot warmer than it is now and the world didn't end. It's really our fixed infrastructure that will suffer if sea levels change.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Reziac (43301) *

          Consider that 90% of the volume of the world's sea ice is already underwater, and that ice contracts slightly when it melts. (Water is unlike other materials, in that it expands when frozen.) How much would melting all the world's ice raise ocean levels? I've seen figures as low as a few INCHES.

          How much would be offset by the fact that when it's warmer, more water evaporates? That's going to come down as rain somewhere, and some of it in areas where it won't become immediate runoff.

          That might even be a net

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Ambitwistor (1041236)

            How much would melting all the world's ice raise ocean levels? I've seen figures as low as a few INCHES.

            Melting the world's sea ice would do little, but that's not what people worry about. It's the land ice. Melting all that would raise ocean levels a couple hundred meters. Of course, that's not going to happen, but the point is that sea ice is not what matters to sea level.

            How much would be offset by the fact that when it's warmer, more water evaporates? That's going to come down as rain somewhere, and some of it in areas where it won't become immediate runoff.

            Right, there would be an overall net increase in precipitation. Unfortunately, that's just the net, and some already-arid areas are likely to get screwed. Worse, we can't predict regional precipitation very well, so we don't know who

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mspohr (589790)
            From our friends at Wikipedia on the Greenland Ice Cap (not sea ice): If the entire 2.85 million km^3 of ice were to melt, it would lead to a global sea level rise of 7.2 m (23.6 ft)[2]. This would inundate most coastal cities in the world and remove several small island countries from the face of Earth, since island nations such as Tuvalu and Maldives have a maximum altitude below or just above this number.

            Wikipedia is your friend.

      • by Björn (4836) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:53PM (#24559501)

        If Global Warming is true, is it really a problem?

        Well if you are just looking for the economic consequences of global warming the Stern review must be the most well known work. Nicholas Stern was the chief economist of the World Bank, 2000-2003. Here is the Wikipedia summery [wikipedia.org]:

        Although not the first economic report on global warming, it is significant as the largest and most widely known and discussed report of its kind.

        Its main conclusions are that one percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) per annum is required to be invested in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and that failure to do so could risk global GDP being up to twenty percent lower than it otherwise might be. Sternâ(TM)s report suggests that climate change threatens to be the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen, and it provides prescriptions including environmental taxes to minimize the economic and social disruptions. He states, "our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century." In June 2008 Stern increased the estimate to 2% of GNP to account for faster than expected climate change.

        The Stern Review has been criticized by some economists, saying that Stern did not consider costs past 2200, that he used an incorrect discount rate in his calculations, and that stopping or significantly slowing climate change will require deep emission cuts everywhere. Other economists have supported Stern's approach, or argued that Stern's conclusions are reasonable, even if the method by which he reached them is open to criticism.

      • by tfoss (203340) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:06PM (#24559647)

        It is about reducing "greenhouse gases", primarily CO2, which is an essential part of the atmosphere.

        The incorrect implication being that we risk reducing CO2 too much, as it is 'essential.' It is unlikely that we even *could* do this, and we are certainly not at risk of doing so.

        So, it does matter if "global warming" is true, because people like Al Gore are asking us to cripple our economies to reduce CO2 emissions, which are only a problem if global warming is a problem.

        The cripple our economies claim is so non-sensical, I wonder if people actually believe it. Reducing carbon emissions != economic disaster. It will mean an adjustment that more accurately prices the use of carbon-heavy items (fossil fuels in particular) by accounting for the huge negative externalities they cause. So yes, oil will get more expensive, but cleaner technology will get cheaper. Capital investment will funnel towards greener technology at the cost of high-carbon-output technology. Rather than there being tons of profit in, say, mining coal, there will profit in, say, developing high efficiency refrigeration or higher temperature superconductors.

        The crippling-the-economy baloney assumes that our economy can not change and adapt to a different set of value models, something that is just clearly not true.

        If Global Warming is true, is it really a problem?

        If you care to believe science, climate change is true. If you think adapting 6 billion people to new shorelines, climates, and weather patterns is not a problem, then no..it might not be such a big deal. Seems to me, though, it probably will be.

        -Ted

      • by lymond01 (314120) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:25PM (#24559879)

        Which is a question that I rarely seen discussed. If Global Warming is true, is it really a problem?

        It's not a problem for the Earth in general. It's been much warmer and much colder and it still sustains a multitude of life. But it's a problem for many of the current species on the planet, including humans.

        The effects of global warming are truly complex and even the most informed scientists can't say for sure what will happen. If the arctic ice melts, oceans will rise, sure. But will the evaporation of the oceans create more cloud cover to cool the Earth? Or will that cloud cover trap more heat?

        Our issues as humans is water supply. You'll notice more commercials for desalinization plants and such. Living in the Central Valley of California, I know that if we have a winter like the one two years ago, we're going to have problems from golf courses to agriculture. Last winter was good, but not great in terms of snow pack. Humans are putting a lot of hope into technology to continue our way of life.

        Anyway, global warming won't take out the Earth, and it likely won't make it unlivable for humans. We'll kill each other off first vying for resources such as water, trees, meat, etc.

      • by Bryansix (761547)
        Exactly! We need to reduce particulate matter and harmful gases from the environment but CO2 is a natural part of the environment and we are in a time of low CO2 levels historically and more CO2 just helps the plants out. Not that we should go overboard or anything but this sequestering CO2 crap is the dumbest move ever.
    • I always thought global warning was a myth created by climate scientists who couldn't get their grants approved.

      Now you tell me it's for real.

      Damn next thing you'll be telling me the big yellow ball in the sky has nothing to do with this global warming?

    • That's what SHE said ?
    • by dpilot (134227)

      But one of the prime talking points of the anti-global-warming crowd is that mankind's activities aren't sufficiently significant to cause climate changes. Except now we're not even doing a global experiment - it's a large one-city experiment. If it yields significant results - even negative results - it should be scalable. Tonnage of emissions, area, those are all measurable things, and it can all be extrapolated. (Wind is harder, but it should only lesson measured results, still leaving a bounding cas

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      "It doesn't matter if global warming is true or not. We all want cleaner air."

      By that logic, "It doesn't matter if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Saddam was a cruel and ruthless dictator who oppressed and murdered his people." Something I hear right wingers say everytime someone brings up the WMD discussion.

      Honestly, I agree with the sentiment. I think the recent improvements in alternative energy are a direct result of the global warming scare and will greatly benifit the entire world. At the same time, global warming being true or false is very important. We are making d

    • by Artraze (600366) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:37PM (#24559319)

      > It doesn't matter if global warming is true or not. We all want cleaner air.

      That's true, but global warming isn't about cleaner air. Global warming is the y2k of this decade. It's about creating a problem/minor panic and a cause that can generate new markets and flow megabucks for things that just aren't worth it.

      Carbon credits? Seriously? What's that got to do with cleaner air. I know someone who has a tree (hardwood) farm. But now, instead of just burning capitol for their upkeep, he can sell carbon credits to offset the emissions of Al Gore's private jet. And we've got all sorts of money flowing into this corn ethanol crap and all it's doing is raising food prices _and_ emissions because getting ethanol to break even is hard enough without using such a bad source. And how about nuclear power? If this was about cleaner air, than that would be a _fantastic_ way of cleaning up the air, at the cost of some difficulties of waste storage. (Which, I would point out, could be vastly reduced if we were to build some recycling plants, but one thing at a time.)

      The list goes on. I _wish_ global warming was about cleaner air. I want cleaner air. What I don't want, however, is all this BS about trying to find some sort of magic bullet of greenness that will solve the "Global Warming Crisis".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ambitwistor (1041236)

        Global warming is the y2k of this decade. It's about creating a problem/minor panic and a cause that can generate new markets and flow megabucks for things that just aren't worth it.

        Pretty much all the world's leading climate economists find that CO2 mitigation passes a cost benefit test. Look at Nordhaus, Weitzman, Yohe, Tol, Stern, and so on.

        If you've got a scientific or economic argument for why global warming isn't a problem, let's hear it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by d34thm0nk3y (653414)
        That's true, but global warming isn't about cleaner air. Global warming is the y2k of this decade.

        So you are saying it is a very real problem (those extra digits didn't appear by magic) that with proper warning, foresight, and pre-emptive action can be mitigated such that it causes fewer problems. Well then, I must say I agree.
    • but damn if a large number of the bigger pushers of carbon credits not heavily invested in those "credit industries" let alone massive abusers themselves.

      The global warming as defined; feel free to pick your definition it seems the experts love to change it up a lot too; is not a hoax but a carefully planned wealth and power transfer. Did you ever wonder why the interest in it spiked even with proof we haven't warmed in years but actually may have cooled? Simple, many figured how to make money off of it a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KillerBob (217953)

      SHe was talking to right winger who was "educated" (told) by a talk radio host that global warming is a myth created by anti-capitalist environmental whackjobs.

      Even if it was created by anti-capitalist environmental whackjobs, how do they explain away the fact that reducing emissions is about reducing waste, which in turn improves efficiency? Running efficiently is good for your bottom line. Even if it is a crazy idea cooked up by enviro-nazis, it still makes good economical sense to be conscious about the

  • by mpapet (761907) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:03PM (#24558951) Homepage

    Why is it, when there are more important issues, this ONE, probably a lesser issue, gets all the "controversy" air-time?

    Some reported facts and anecdotes:

    As told to velonews, air pollution builds-up because Bejing sits on the edge of the Gobi desert. A good rain is required to clear the air that's trapped in Bejing. http://www.velonews.com/article/81199 [velonews.com]

    As a former competitive cyclist living in Los Angeles, I can tell you from experience, you feel the pollution later, not really during the event.

    What *would* affect most outdoor performances more than pollution is the heat/humidity combination.

    Finally, the last olympics had major heat issues for road cyclists, so each location has issues. Smog is not a major one for Bejing.

    • by Gat0r30y (957941)

      Smog is not a major one for Bejing.

      When pollution is so bad you cannot see the sun for weeks/months on end, and when it does rain

      A good rain is required to clear the air

      it leaves a disgusting film of nastiness over everything, I'd say you have a major problem.

    • by eln (21727) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:14PM (#24559053) Homepage

      Why is it, when there are more important issues, this ONE, probably a lesser issue, gets all the "controversy" air-time?

      I, for one, would like to hear a little more coverage of how the Chinese got all of their 16 year old female gymnasts to all look between the ages of 8 and 12. We know they're all 16, though, because, according to the broadcast, their passports confirm it. What's the point of the new "16 and over" rule if the only way they check ages is by looking at government issued passports? Surely the government would have no reason to lie! Sort of like the East German women that were all drug-free in the '70s and '80s, despite the adams apples and mustaches.

      The gymnastics events have always been sort of a joke as far as fairness is concerned, but the new incomprehensible scoring system and the apparently barely enforced 16 and over rule seems to have made things worse, not better.

      • by poached (1123673) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:32PM (#24559997)

        chinese women tend to look younger than they really are. Think of it as a plus.

        think of the disgrace brought upon the chinese, the host country, if what you said is true and is exposed by some creditable source? gymnastics is one of the strongest program the chinese has. I don't think they would risk it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        I, for one, would like to hear a little more coverage of how the Chinese got all of their 16 year old female gymnasts to all look between the ages of 8 and 12.

        From what I saw, the only female gymnast from any country who looked like she might be 16 years old was in fact 24.

        Maybe you're not aware of what years of non-stop training starting before and continuing through puberty does to a girl's body, but suffice to say that teenage gymnasts looking pre-pubescent is not at all worrying (from the standpoint of

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by stinerman (812158)

        We know they're all 16, though, because, according to the broadcast, their passports confirm it. What's the point of the new "16 and over" rule if the only way they check ages is by looking at government issued passports?

        Seems to me that we need Netcraft to confirm it. Who would doubt their ages then?

    • by gnuman99 (746007) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:57PM (#24559549)

      Smog is not a major one for Bejing.

      Tell that to anyone not living in that cesspool.

      All I had to do was travel to Toronto for few days and I was feeling scratchy throat and "like something was coating my lungs". That was NOT on a smog alert days which I think is when their particulate matter is over 50 or something. Well, Beijing has PM10 readings of about 4x that. 4x what in Toronto is a smog alert.

      Sorry, but I would not go there to compete about anything. And if you live there and think it is not bad, go somewhere without smog, like central Australia or central canada (eg. Manitoba) or mid-west US or someplace like that. Then I *dare* go back to Beijing and tell me that it is not too bad.

      I know what I speak off. I used to live in Poland with their coal fired house heating. After snow fell, it become coated with soot after a few hours (gray coating). Frankly, I never knew there is such a thing as *clean snow* until I came to Canada. Here, snow is as clean on the day it fell as it is 5 months later when it melts.

      People living in cesspools like that have NO IDEA the shit they are living in. You have to GET OUT and live someplace else for a while, then go back and compare.

      The only thing I can compare this too is like getting your first pair of glasses. You think you can still see fine, but your eyesight is crappy and foggy. Then you get your eyeglasses and you can't believe how sharp everything is! Same thing with pollution. It sneaks up on you until you can't breath anymore. And then you end up complaining that it must be the food or something unrelated.

      Wake up people. Wake up and put on your first glasses to see the crap you area breathing!

  • OK put it simply. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by seeker_1us (1203072)
    short summary:

    1)We have global warming which is from the greenhouse effect.

    2)You have a shitload of sooty pollution it keeps the sun out from the ground level so it feels cooler.

    3) The sun comes out after you clean up your disgusting air and you start to notice the global warming.

    4) Global warming was always there.

  • by dashesy (1294654)
    Imagine all Chinese girls wear mini skirts (or better wear bikinis) everyday, there will be more fabric than needed for the poor and of course a lot more to ponder about. o(kX) when k is very large.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:12PM (#24559035)

    Chinese officials to citizens: We can move heaven and earth when we deem it sufficiently important; foreigners will enjoy proper breathing conditions. Once they are gone, you'll go back to sucking down the equivalent of a cigarette drag every time you breathe outdoors. STFU, coolies, and get back to work.

    Everybody is talking about how this will be the Chinese century, rah-rah, all is grand. History doesn't always go along with the popular consensus. The communist revolution was supposed to occur in advanced, capitalist countries, not a semi-feudal backwards backwater like Imperial Russia. Everyone was convinced the Shah's Iran was a model of western influence in the region and a shining bulwark against religious radicals. Hardly anybody saw the Iranian revolution coming.

    I'm not saying it will go one way or the other, I'm just proposing a scenario on how China could fail in a couple of broad brushstrokes.

    1. Eroding faith in government. We already saw how bad their construction was after that recent quake. 20 year old buildings stood up to the shaking, more recent buildings fell down. Government regulation and enforcement has failed.

    2. Shitty infrastructure. A lot of reports talk about how the Chinese are building a bunch of stuff but the quality has been poor. This is not infrastructure that will last for decades, this is just slapping stuff together as quickly as possible, Haliburton style. We already know Three Gorges Dam has a lot of problems, what happens when it fails during a quake? Go back to point 1, eroding faith in government.

    3. The pollution is freaking out of control. What kind of collapses and failures environmentally can they look forward to? The Gobi is expanding rapidly. What happens if they have famine?

    4. Economics. Right now they are holding an incredible amount of American debt but to what end? Is this an economic cudgel to use against us? What if they misjudge and the weapon turns out to do them more harm than us? If the US defaults on the loan, what next? Who are they going to sell their cheap shit to? Are their domestic markets ready to create demand and wealth?

    5. Disproportionate share of prosperity. The oligarchs are making out fine, what about the rest of the people? Will class resentment grow too powerful?

    6. Population time bomb. One Child per Family means there's a lot of boys and not many girls to go around. What are they going to do for wives when they grow up? And what of families who have lost their only sons in disasters like the quake. The Chinese put a huge premium on family, carrying on the line, etc. Could there be massive popular resentment against these policies when such disasters wipe out entire families such as we've seen?

    It seems like the current Chinese leadership has learned from the errors of their predecessors -- isolationist thinking in a violent world makes China a conquered country. They're now going to be actively engaged on the world stage. It will remain conflict to be sure, but how much will be diplomatic, how much economic, and will military be resorted to when the other two have failed? Will China get itself involved in wars it cannot win? Could a major loss see the fall of the party? What would the successor states be like? Would we see a return to the warring states period?

    Lots and lots of questions. I just think the whole "This is China's century" narrative is only one of several possible outcomes.

    • by kesuki (321456) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:28PM (#24559213) Journal

      "Once they are gone, you'll go back to sucking down the equivalent of a cigarette drag every time you breathe outdoors"

      that reminds me, there was a new york city marathon runner, never smoked, and when they died their lungs were as black as a life long smoker of 60 years, a 3 pack a day smoker's lungs.

      even with 'tough' anti pollution laws, you can still get three packs a day worth of crud in your lungs just from running outdoors in a large city.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kriston (7886)

        I went on a tour of the major cities (and some minor ones) back when they were awarded the Olympics. Massive slum-clearing and beautification projects were underway, partly for social reasons due to Olympic visitors, but the big reason was to increase the green space in Beijing. All of the highway bridges were installed with tree planters and trees were being grown in the outer suburbs and trucked in to the city in the hopes it would reduce pollution and alleviate the windy, dusty conditions that are, evi

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:17PM (#24559087) Homepage

    The BBC is measuring pollution themselves [bbc.co.uk], much to the annoyance of the Chinese government. August 10 was a really bad day. August 11, not so bad.

    The equestrian events are in Hong Kong, which also has high pollution, but the drastic control measures being used in Beijing aren't being applied to Hong Kong. That's a small-scale competition. Hong Kong's racing fans think dressage is boring, and more than half of the 10,000 spectators walked out yesterday.

    • equestian events (Score:3, Informative)

      by hguorbray (967940)

      As a someone who was a horseman for 15 years (show and racehorses) I can say that the only people who do not think dressage is boring is the dressage people.

      It is the equivalent of the technical section of an ice skating competition -exacting but boring -how perfect can you make a circle?

      In the context of a three day event it is a little more interesting because you then have the cross country and stadium jumping events to see which horse and rider had the precision to do well in the dressage, the guts for

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:18PM (#24559111) Journal

    Now we have a wonderful rationale to implement a totalitarian world government because ONLY THEY have the ability to stop those dirty, pollution-making people with their freedoms and their poor personal choices. Finally!

  • Horrible Article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:22PM (#24559149) Journal
    Journalists have a strange way of muddying the waters of studies like this with regards to intent and theory, so I won't make any conclusions as to the validity of the study, but there are a few points that need to be made.

    While this study will be informative as to the pathways pollution will take, I'd really like to know how a 1 month venture is going to address something like climate change. Climate change is something that happens over hundreds of years on a very broad scale. Even though Beijing is a very large city, the pollution there (or lack thereof) will have little (if any) measurable effect over a 1 month period.

    The Newsweek article also posts some of the theories which are speculated by Scripps as scientific fact when they are to be determined by the article - which has the above problems. I can see validity to studying pollution effects on people and where the pollution goes after it leaves Beijing, but climate change is really a stretch.
  • by Moof123 (1292134) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:42PM (#24559363)

    Nova had a nice show on this last week, well actually a repeat from 2006.

    One fellow showed a pretty dramatic effect on weather in the US just from the lack of con trails (sp?) from jets being absent for 3 days following 9/11. Upshot claim was that Global Dimming accounts for masking roughly 50% of Global Warming's effect. Soot itself was not the chief reflector, but rather clouds with soot reflected much more sunlight than if the soot was not present, it changed the size of the drops and created many more locations for these small drops to accumulate.

    The trouble I see with the argument of "Soot helps!", is that soot is temporary, eventually washing out of the air. CO2 is not. CO2 is rapidly saturating it's sinks and is steadily increasing in the atmosphere. So even if we tried to use lots of particulate matter to dim things, eventually the ever accumulating CO2 would swamp things out.

    The other bit of warning from the Nova episode is that this cooling is localized to the downstream of the polluters. So by creating localized cooling you can really screw up historic weather patterns. They cited a simulation showing that if you looked at the pollution from the US in the 70's and 80's with the better understanding of the cooling, that it helps explain the long period of draught that screwed over Ethiopia. As our sooty emissions in the US got curtailed, Ethiopia's monsoons went back to a more typical pattern. We can change climate much faster than populations, species, forests, etc can adapt.

    Though, if we flood New York and Florida, is that all bad?

  • by HoneyBeeSpace (724189) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:12PM (#24559729) Homepage
    If you'd like to replicate this experiment in a NASA climate simulation yourself, the EdGCM [columbia.edu] project has wrapped a NASA global climate model (GCM) in a GUI (OS X and Win). You can add CO2 or turn the sun down by a few percent all with a checkbox and a slider. Supercomputers and advanced FORTRAN programmers are no longer necessary to run your own GCM.

    Disclaimer: I'm the project developer.
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Is there anything similar to your project that works completely on Linux, or are there plans to migrate away from a proprietary database to one that will work truly cross-platform?

      I was interested until that bit:
      Although the GCM itself can be run on Linux as well as on most other Unix variants, the EdGCM interface cannot. The reason is that the 4th Dimension database underlying EdGCM is available for MacOS and Windows, but not Linux. Should 4D, Inc. ever introduce a Linux version of 4th Dimension, we would

  • by rkaa (162066) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:56PM (#24560273)
  • by InakaBoyJoe (687694) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:09AM (#24565049)

    From TFA:

    Data-gathering flights... will originate at the South Korean island of Cheju, located ... in the projected path of pollution plumes originating in various cities in China including the capital.

    But take one look at the map [ucsd.edu] in the article and ... hey, wait a minute... Jeju/Cheju Island [wikipedia.org] is located right smack in the middle of that blue blob in the lower middle of the photo!! And since the caption says "Areas in red depict the dimensions of the main aerosol mass emanating from Beijing", that means Jeju is exactly the WRONG place to gather data, since it's out of the aerosol stream.

    This is a factual inconsistency in the article, as the map and the text contradict each other. Granted, most Americans couldn't find Jeju on the map, but that's still no excuse for poor attention to geography on the part of the article writers.

    Which makes one wonder why these measurements aren't being taken in China. Oh wait, but of course they are. It's just that the measurements are being done by Chinese scientists ... and the fact that they aren't working in cooperation with the American scientists is just further evidence that there is a real information Great Wall between these countries...

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