Those shadowy days that appear in mid-afternoon in Beijing aren't just caused by fog after all, Chinese officials are finally admitting. It's throat-choking, eye-watering, blinding smog. And it's been so atrocious the last few days that authorities have had to cancel flights out of Beijing International Airport, the world's second busiest hub, reports MSNBC. State-run media had been complaining about a persistent "fog," but are now talking about the health threats of pollution—and residents have been scooping up masks and air filter machines for their homes. The timing was poignant as officials from China, the biggest carbon emitter in the world, are at the Durban summit negotiating a binding agreement to reduce emissions.
A cold front today was beginning to clear the air, but not quickly enough to stem harsh criticism of authorities. The Global Times, owned by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, published an editorial saying the nation needed to “face the reality” of its pollution problem. “Our pollution has become severe,” said the unsigned editorial. “It is time for us to shift our focus from development to protection.” Chinese environmental protection “is hardly a functional system,” it said. The US embassy's pollution monitor in Beijing today was down to "moderate" from "very unhealthy" the previous day. Pollution on Sunday was so bad it was beyond the monitor's ability to measure it, reports Bloomberg. (Read more Beijing stories.)