You Won’t Believe How Bad Pollution In China Has Become

Published August 27, 2014
Updated May 23, 2020

These unbelievable photographs reveal just how devastating pollution in China has become.

Satellite Image Of China Smog

NASA/GSFCThe smog over China is so dense that it is visible in photographs taken from space.

With a newly-minted elite and an economic growth rate of over 10 percent, the environment has taken a backseat in China, the world’s most populous country. Growing pollution has led to unusable waterways, increased incidence of birth defects, and some of the dirtiest air on earth. It’s so nasty that there’s now a word for it: “smogpocalypse”.

With that said, China is not oblivious to its ecological impacts, and according to the Harvard Business Review “is taking this challenge much more seriously than others… doing things differently, making longer-term, sustained commitments that are much larger.” In 2010, China ranked as the world’s leading investor in low-carbon energy technology, which makes sense given national political leaders’ tendency to view clean energy as a great economic opportunity.

The following photographs prove that economic growth indeed comes at a cost, and one whose long-term effects remain unclear:

Boy Swimming In Algal Blooms
Pollution In China Jianhe River
Industrial Pollution
Algae Lake Hefei China
You Won’t Believe How Bad Pollution In China Has Become
View Gallery

We also recommend that you check out these videos by Vice about the severity of pollution in China:

Thank you to National Geographic, Business Insider, CBS, and us for the images above.

Be sure to check out our other posts on photographs of life inside North Korea and the growing environmental crisis in China. And before you go, sign up for our newsletter and like All That Is Interesting on Facebook!

Alexander is a Brooklyn-based cofounder of All That's Interesting with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in History and Economics and an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics. He specializes in American history, the Cold War, and true crime.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.