Ah, September. It’s that rare time of the year when Shanghai’s weather is not only decent, but quite pristine. Muggy summer heat waves give way to cooler afternoons. The mosquito-ridden August sunsets transform into breezy, crisp evenings. Summer’s cicada serenade becomes the song of chirping birds and bicycle bells, as more and more people take to the streets on two wheels. It really is when the best of Shanghai is on display.
Staring out of my bedroom window the other day (which, admittedly, is one of the best views in Shanghai) I was wowed by just how much was actually on display. I could see for miles and miles thanks to such low levels of pollution. Of course I wanted to confirm my suspicions so I checked my trusty air-quality index (AQI) app and sure enough, levels were in the low teens. Tracking levels over the past month I was surprised to find more low pollution days than high ones. Does this mean the pollution problem, at least in the coastal regions around Shanghai, is over? Are all the policies being implemented in Beijing having a visible (pun intended) impact on the country’s environment?
The short answer: I’m not sure. There is still a jury out on whether these low levels of pollution are here to stay or just a very welcome anomaly. While September, thus far, has had more days of low pollution than last year it seems to only be following an annual trend. Looking back at AQI data over the past two years, we see predictable trends over time. Certain times of the year have low pollution levels, while others have markedly higher ones.
While it’s safe to say that Shanghailanders can enjoy low pollution during the summer for years to come, we are not out of the woods yet. Although there are noticeable shifts in the levels of pollution, mostly with gradually lower PM2.5 and PM10 levels day by day, there will still be the odd spike in pollution every now and again. Sudden shifts in weather, wind, and industry make these changes very hard to predict. We can, though, make sure we are prepared.
I would love to proclaim that things are going to be amazing here forever, but there is evidence against that. Still, I remain positive that changes in pollution levels, combined with actionable governmental policy, are huge strides in the right direction.