China has issued the highest pollution alert of the year, as dangerous smog that is more than 20 times healthy limits engulfs Beijing. The alert comes as world leaders convene in Paris to strike a climate deal.
A blanket of hazardous smog hung over Beijing and other parts of northeast China on Monday, just as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gasesjoined talks in Paris aimed at reaching a climate change deal.
Levels of the tiny airborne particle PM2.5 rose "beyond index" to more than 500 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the US Embassy, which advises people to stay indoors and avoid activity at such levels.
The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 25 micrograms in a 24-hour period.
Chinese authorities issued an "orange alert," the second-highest, and closed some highways. It also urged factories and construction to stop or suspend activity in an effort to reduce the smog.
The pollution is caused by coal-fired heating of homes during the winter, and by emissions from factories and cars.
Major cause of illness
High levels of air pollution have been linked to premature deaths and disease, including heart attacks, stroke, cancer and other lung diseases.
The pollution that has come alongside China's economic growth is also a source of popular discontent with the government.
The smog highlights the difficulties China may face to balance a growing economy with pledges to curb greenhouse gases and pursue greener energy.
China has pledged to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 as part of a global climate deal to be hammered out over the next two weeks in Paris, but that would still allow the Asian giant to increase emissions for another decade and a half.
cw/tj (AFP, Reuters)