Climate Change Worsens China Smog, Studies Say

In Environment On
- Updated

BEIJING — Chinese leaders, grappling with some of the world’s worst air pollution, have long assumed the answer to their woes was gradually reducing the level of smog-forming chemicals emitted from power plants, steel factories and cars.

But new research suggests another factor may be hindering China’s efforts to take control of its devastating smog crisis: climate change.

Changing weather patterns linked to rising global temperatures have resulted in a dearth of wind across northern China, according to several recent studies, exacerbating a wave of severe pollution that has been blamed for millions of premature deaths. Wind usually helps blow away smog, but changes in weather patterns in recent decades have left many of China’s most populous cities poorly ventilated, scientists say.

Environmentalists said the role of climate change in exacerbating smog was an important finding. But they underlined the need for local governments to do more to reduce emissions.

“It won’t change the overall conclusion that air pollutant emission is the direct and interior cause for this air pollution problem,” Dong Liansai, a climate and energy advocate at Greenpeace in Beijing, wrote in an email. “Much more action is required.”

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