Derek Mead tallies the cost of dirty air:

According to a report from Greenpeace and Peking University’s School of Public Health released in mid-December, deaths attributable to high levels of PM2.5 pollution totaled an estimated 8,572 in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an and Beijing in 2012. The total economic losses in those cities during that span was estimated to be $1.08 billion.

That cost is nothing to blink at, and it’s one that’s will only get worse of air quality doesn’t improve. So while leaving construction sites and factories idle is a blunt short-term solution, Beijing needs to look at healthier long-term growth drivers–giving up coal, developing cleaner facets of China’s economy to counter its heavy reliance on manufacturing, construction, and infrastructure development–if it wants to develop a more sustainable economy.

Alexis Madrigal compares modern-day Beijing to 19th century Pittsburgh:

[N]ext time you see one of the photos of Beijing’s pollution and say, “Geez! The Chinese should do something about this!” Just know that it took American activists over a century to win the precise same battle, and that they’re losing a similar one over climate change right this minute.

The screenshot above is from NASA’s comparison of Beijing satellite images from January 14th (on the left) and January 3rd (on the right). Interactive version here. Earlier Dish on China’s smog here.