I’d heard the pollution in China was intense. The entire global media establishment was writing stories about it shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the nothing I read even came close to describing the real deal. My first day in China, I sat in the window seat on a flight from Beijing to Xi’an. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but the smog was so thick that five minutes after takeoff I couldn’t see the ground. I didn’t see blue sky for the first 12 days, until a major thunderstorm cleared out the air for while.

The air actually feels icky on really bad days. After an afternoon walking around sweating in the heat, I felt like I had grainy coal particles coating my skin. Some days the smog is so thick it could be a traffic hazard. Visibility drops to maybe 150 meters. Past that, all you see is gray. I cannot imagine having to breath the stuff every day for a lifetime.

Seeing firsthand how bad the air is in China makes me laugh at the feeble climate change initiatives being considered in the US. If we really want to cut carbon emissions in a meaningful way, we’re going to need cold fusion or something similar. Cap and trade just isn’ t going to cut it for a country with a population of 1.6 billion and GDP growth rates topping 8% a year. I’m pretty convinced it’s time to start investing in levees.

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