China Wants U.S. to Stop Tweeting Beijing’s Air Quality
We all know China isn’t exactly the greatest example of environmental stewardship and they certainly have a bad reputation for poor air quality. Taking one look at the brown hazy smog blanketing the city of Beijing says it all. Recently the Chinese Government took issue with the fact that foreign embassies were publicizing Beijing’s bad air quality and on Tuesday asked that they stop doing so.
Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing stated at a press conference that making this information public to other nations is inaccurate, unlawful, and doesn’t represent the city’s overall air quality since it is measured by only one station. For example, New York has 20 monitoring stations while London has 31.
Mr. Wu was mostly referring to a twitter feed @BeijingAir that gives hourly readings on the air quality from a monitor that sits atop the embassy compound. The twitter feed, which is run by the U.S. Embassy, has so far accumulated nearly 20,000 followers since it was created in 2008.
The readings that are showing up on the feed greatly differ from those monitored by Beijing’s own 27 stations that are spread out across the city. For instance, on a late Tuesday night the twitter feed read 199 micrograms of particulate matter in the air and classified this as “very unhealthy” while Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau showed only 51 and 79 micrograms and categorized that as “good.”
The Vice Minister went on to explain that it’s not fair to measure their air by U.S. standards since China is required to keep PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) to be kept below daily averages of 75 micrograms per cubic meter. On the hand, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires much more strict concentrations below 35 micrograms.
“Environmental quality standards should tally with economic development and technologic conditions,” Wu said, as quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency. “According to international conventions, diplomats are obligated to respect and abide by the laws and regulations in their receiving states. In addition, they cannot interfere with the domestic issues of receiving states.”
China only recently started to monitor PM2.5 concentrations early 2012. The way to detect these kinds of concentrations can only be done with an electron microscope. Sources include things like emissions from cars, power plants, fireplaces, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes.
“We wish those embassies and consulates will respect China’s laws and stop publishing air quality data which is not representative,” he said.
Mr. WU also reiterated that since China is a developing country it is unfair to judge the air there according to U.S. standards and told reporters that it was a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
As of now the reading on Beijing air are still being posted via twitter but if it does happen to be taken down than the people of Beijing who are concerned about air quality will have to rely on their eyes and their nose to determine if it’s healthy to be outdoors or not.
Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Jim O Connell via Flickr.
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