Comparative Smog

Via the LAT,  Beijing’s smog makes Los Angeles air look good:

In the American Lung Assn.’s 2014 national State of the Air survey, the L.A.-Long Beach area ranked worst in terms of ozone concentrations and third worst in terms of particulates as measured by the standard known as PM2.5, which captures particles so small they can be seen only with an electron microscope.

But if L.A. were in China, it would be cleaner than all 74 major cities tracked in 2013 by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, based on PM2.5 levels.

And because charts are cool (and telling):

Beijing regularly tops L.A.'s worst smog day

FILED UNDER: Asia, US Politics, World Politics, ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. anjin-san says:

    China is learning what happens when government gets out of the way of business.

  2. Dave D says:

    Thank god the GOP keeps campaigning on getting rid of that terrible unnecessary EPA.

  3. @anjin-san:

    The suggestion that the Chinese government is “out of the way of business” is ridiculous.

  4. Kari Q says:

    The smog in L.A. today is dramatically reduced from what it was in the 70s. I grew up outside of L.A. but we’d go there on weekends to visit relatives or we’d go to Disneyland, and I can remember the thick brown haze that hung over the basin. Some days, the smog was so bad that my lungs hurt by the time we got home. Today, it’s barely noticeable most of the time.

    All that is to say, if China wants to reduce smog, it can do so without giving up on industrialization. It has to decide that the health of its citizens is a priority, and the technology exists to put smog reduction into place. I’m not holding breath.

  5. anjin-san says:

    @ Stormy Dragon

    I am being facetious. The point that I am trying to make is that we would probably be in the same boat if the “get government out of the way” crowd had their way. I’m old enough to remember when almost every car that went by emitted a stinking cloud of smoke. We visited LA regularly when I was growing up in the 60’s, but I never saw the San Gabriel Mountains until the mid-80s, they were always hidden by the smog. I still remember thinking “where the heck did those come from” the first time I saw them.

    We still have a long way to go, but we have made quite a bit of progress – due to government intervention.

  6. James Pearce says:


    I never saw the San Gabriel Mountains until the mid-80s

    That’s funny. I haven’t seen Denver’s “Brown Cloud” since the 90s.

  7. Tillman says:

    @Kari Q:

    It has to decide that the health of its citizens is a priority, and the technology exists to put smog reduction into place.

    The thing of it is, if they can get away with piecemeal measures that reduce the death rate attributable to the pollution below the threshold of public outcry, that’s about all they’ll do.

    A person in China is an easy commodity to come by. Then again perhaps I’m seeing more heartlessness in the government than actually exists. I mean, I’m going off how the ’08 Olympics caused them to shut down industry just for appearances.

  8. MarkedMan says:

    Here in Shanghai I have an app on my phone that displays the current API (air pollution index) as a little alert on the icon. So where the Messages app might show an alert with the number of unread messages, my Air Quality app shows “21” the incredibly good API for the current hour. The API is not PM2.5 discussed above, but rather a formula the US Foreign Service calculates uniformly from data collected at their embassies and consulates around the world. Pm2.5 is only part of it and that is currently “5”. Thank god for offshore breezes.

    When you hear air pollution numbers, things like PM 2.5 are absolutes and should be the same when measured close together, but API can only be compared to API’s calculated by the same metrics. When we had our Airpocalypse last January of 500+, that was the API, as was Bejing’s 1000+ number.