Vance's data shows that
Jiayou, Beijing. Vance notes that PM10 concentrations in our favorite northern Chinese megacity, which are particularly important for environmental health, are still above those recommended by the World Health Organization, but hey, progress is progress.
Although the air quality since 9/21 hasn't been as good as it was during the Olympic period, the average particulate matter concentration in the air this fall has been over 20% lower than the same time period last year and almost 40% lower than the same time period two years ago.
Speaking of which, we need some serious progress on those climate negotiations in Poznan. Last week CGS wrote about the need to block the climate deadlock. The recent book CGS referenced, Can Asia Change the Game?, intelligently emphasizes the need for climate negotiations to focus on co-benefits for developing countries between fighting air pollution and climate change with policy measures that do both.
Air pollution is a more concrete and (in political terms) more pressing environmental issue than climate change for many developing nations. Its impact on human health is established and direct, and air pollution impacts the denizens of large developing cities in innumerable, very visible ways.
A co-benefits approach that emphasizes measures to reduce both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions would focus on reducing trips by private autos, favoring the use of mass transit, bicycles, and even walking. It would also focus on the adoption of sustainable construction practices (this is where our man Geoff at China Green Buildings comes in), and a shift away from fossil fuel combustion in electricity generation.
The co-benefits approach stands a good chance of gaining traction with developing nations eager to please domestic constituencies (and let's face it, they all are) by focusing not just on the abstract notion of "climate change," but also environmental problems that more directly impact everyday life. We just want to avoid an American-style political sleight of hand where politicians stand in front of some mountain range declaring that the air is clean and then fly away in a jumbo jet.