China's Smog Is 'Nuclear Winter' Bad

Crop scientist says the nation's food supply is at risk

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 26, 2014 12:36 PM CST

(Newser) – Just how lousy is Beijing's air these days? Chinese President Xi Jinping found it necessary to demonstrate his support for the people by ... walking around and breathing yesterday. That's it. "Breathing the same air, sharing the same fate," read the headline on the state's official news agency website, reports the Australian. Heroically, Xi didn't even wear a mask. But a Chinese crop scientist says the smog is approaching levels "somewhat similar to a nuclear winter" and warned that it could have devastating consequences for the nation's food supply, reports the Guardian.

As an experiment, the scientist planted two batches of chili and tomato seeds, one in a lab under artificial light and the other in a suburban Beijing greenhouse. The lab seeds sprouted in 20 days, while the others took more than 60, and "they will be lucky to live at all," she says. Poor light, poor photosynthesis. Beijing is currently enduring a particularly bad stretch in which "the air is off-the-charts bad," writes Hannah Beech in Time; she lives in Beijing with her family and had to send her two young boys off to school in masks last week. She notes that public sentiment seems to be reaching a breaking point—a citizen in Shijiazhuang has filed what is believed to be the first suit against the government tied to the bad air.

Vehicles clog a main highway during a sixth straight day of severe pollution in Beijing Tuesday.
Vehicles clog a main highway during a sixth straight day of severe pollution in Beijing Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A woman wearing a face mask bicycles on a road in Beijing Tuesday.
A woman wearing a face mask bicycles on a road in Beijing Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A man wears a mask during a hazy day in Beijing Wednesday.
A man wears a mask during a hazy day in Beijing Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Chinese women wearing masks cross the road near the headquarters of the China Central Television headquarters in Beijing Wednesday.
Chinese women wearing masks cross the road near the headquarters of the China Central Television headquarters in Beijing Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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