A study published online this week in Nature Climate Change reports that climate change increases the frequency and persistence of severe haze events in Beijing, China. The study suggests that haze-related health and economic impacts may continue to rise despite stringent emission controls implemented by the Chinese government.
The recent increase in winter-time haze across China has largely been attributed to heightened atmospheric pollutant emissions that are associated with rapid industrialisation and urbanisation. However, changes in a specific set of weather conditions related to haze formation may also have contributed to increased haze occurrence in Beijing.
Hong Liao and colleagues use observations and an ensemble of climate model simulations to show that weather conditions that favour haze development have increased by 10% in Beijing from the 1948-1981 period to the 1982-2015 period. They suggest that these changes will continue in the future. For example, extreme weather conditions like those of the widespread haze event of January 2013 are likely to increase in frequency by 50% and persistence by 80% by the second half of the twenty-first century.
In an accompanying News & Views article, Renhe Zhang comments that “aside from controlling air pollution by limiting pollutant emissions, a global effort to slow down global warming is also urgently needed to decrease the risk of heavy air pollution in Beijing.”