Smog in Beijing has become so thick that the only visable sunrise in the polluted capital city yesterday was the one projected on an LED screen in Tienanmen Square. As commuters wore industrial strength face masks to work, the Chinese government issued a severe air warning, advising the elderly and school children to stay indoors.
"I couldn't see the tall buildings across the street this morning," a traffic coordinator told the Daily Mail. "The smog has gotten worse in the last two to three years. I often cough, and my nose is always irritated."
From 1 to 6 a.m. on Thursday, the U.S. embassy in Beijing—which reports the capital's air quality via Twitter—recorded levels of air pollution that was literally off the charts. Concentrations of particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter reached more than 600 micrograms per cubic meter. At half that level, the U.S. State Department issues a "hazerdous" warning, meaning "everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion."
Pollution is also on the rise in the U.S. after years of steady decline; energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose roughly two percent in 2013. The U.S. Energy Information Administration attributes the increase to a resurgence in coal, which has generated 40 percent or more of the nation's electricity each month since November 2012.