How to Make a 1,000-Foot Skyscraper Disappear Into Thick Air

Beijing, China’s 81-story World Trade Center Tower II gets lost in the country’s omnipresent smog.

Peek-a-boo! (Photo: Bill Bishop/Sinocism)

Feb 28, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

Just how soupy thick is Beijing’s air pollution these days? Enough to blot out a 1,000-foot-tall skyscraper.

The above image shows two very different snapshots of China’s World Trade Center Tower II, an 81-floor skyscraper. The photo on the left was taken on February 27 by Sinocism’s Bill Bishop. The photo on the right, however, depicts the exact same tower, only on a relatively clear day.

The last month or so has seen a string of dirty air blanket Beijing.

On January 12 the air pollution in Beijing was so awful that it scored a 755 on the U.S. EPA-designed 0 to 500 scale.

For some perspective, below 25 is considered a safe level by the World Health Organization.

That’s like living in the smoking lounge at an airport.

It’s only worsened since then, with the U.S. embassy in Beijing registering the pollution when this photograph was taken as “Beyond Index.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Ann Marie Carlton of Rutgers University told TakePart that the micrograms currently dirtying up China’s air “decrease lung function, and particles can actually kill people when the concentrations are that high. There have been episodes where many people have died.”

The pollution that shrouded this skyscraper is being blamed on a freak sandstorm, according to state-run media outlets (always a reliable outlet, in China). Most of the country’s air pollution, however, is caused by dirty cars and even dirtier coal plants.

China, if you’re listening, here’s a thought: Instead of spending who-knows-how much Yuan building 363 new coal power plants, why not pony up enough cabbage to give every one of your 1.3 billion citizens a brand-new breathing bicycle?