It gets cold in Changchun in winter.
Have I mentioned that before?
Oh. I have?
Well let’s throw some data at you, since everyone loves data, right?
Average January Temperatures
|City||High ºC||High ºF||Low ºC||Low ºF|
Now, unless you’re lucky enough to be one of the 250,000 people who mine diamonds in Yakutsk, Russia, on the banks of the Lena River, that’s probably colder than where you live. Probably a lot colder. Significantly colder than famously cold places like Anchorage and Moscow.
There are a lot of ways to cope with weather that cold. In addition to healthy choices like wool socks and warm coats, there are less healthy choices like drinking copiously, smoking cigarettes, and burning coal for warmth. This last option has been a sore point for China, especially the last decade.
After ramping up its industrial production faster than any country in history, China has been burdened with the legacy of air pollution. China isn’t the first country to go through these growing pains. Pittsburgh of a hundred years ago looked a lot like Beijing does today in winter, with choking gray clouds and people struggling to breathe the polluted air. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing were a coming out party for the country, and it didn’t escape the Party’s notice that air pollution was as big a subject of the news coverage as the games themselves. China is rapidly addressing its pollution problem, and making the kinds of sweeping changes that democracies are incapable of making due to bureaucratic gridlock.
As part of the plan to reduce coal burning, the government made the decision that it wasn’t enough to transition into cleaner fuels. It needed to reduce demand. And with hundreds of thousands of citizens living in concrete apartment buildings that predate the Communist Party, there are limited options available. You can’t just take out the drywall and put in better fiberglass insulation when your walls are solid concrete.
So what do you do?
You wrap the buildings in styrofoam…
(much more to come…)