John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It must sting when the world's biggest smog-hole is calling your air polluted.
China has some gall. Take a look at this cartoon that ran recently in the Global Times, a paper that Shanghaiist dubs "[e]veryone's favorite vitriolic nationalist rag":
Aw, the Eiffel Tower is sad because it's being smothered by car exhaust. No wonder the government took away half your cars, France – you're turning the sky into a smoggy, choking mess!
It must sting when China, which you can't find on a map sometimes because of all its smog, is calling your country's air nasty. To recap, France is facing unusually high levels of particulate matter due to a temperature inversion trapping smog low to the ground. The authorities have responded by making public transportation free and rationing the number of drivers on the road via a license plate-based system. (A system that, in proud French tradition, thousands are are ignoring.) The air quality has been so lousy in recent days that walking through the city was like traversing the dusky interior of a Texas haboob.
But does China really have zinging rights here? Let's have a gander at what was floating over France last Friday, when air-pollution concentrations were about 10 times denser than the 2011 average:
Can you see the haze? "The pollution, which appears gray, is most visible just south of the bank of low clouds near and over the English Channel," writes NASA, which helps operate the satellite that acquired this image.
Now, here's China in December. A filthy river of smog stretches from Shanghai all the way to Beijing, which you'd think the Global Times staff would've seen it as they're based there. Form your own conclusions:
Bottom image courtesy of NASA