Can China’s most polluted city lead a green energy revolution?

Updated 10:19 AM EST, Mon November 30, 2015
Roads and buildings in Baoding, China are seen shrouded in heavy smog on November 30, 2015, where the air quality index (AQI) has reached a 'hazardous' level.
Matt Rivers/CNN
Roads and buildings in Baoding, China are seen shrouded in heavy smog on November 30, 2015, where the air quality index (AQI) has reached a 'hazardous' level.
Now playing
03:09
What is it like to live in China's most polluted city?
screengrab china shenzhou 12 launch
CCTV
screengrab china shenzhou 12 launch
Now playing
01:59
See Chinese rocket launch to send astronauts to its space station
Host TV
Now playing
07:15
'What are you so afraid of?': Journalist presses Putin on political opposition
Russian President Vladimir Putin faces questions from reporters after his meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland.
Host TV
Russian President Vladimir Putin faces questions from reporters after his meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland.
Now playing
04:44
Putin faces question about cyberattacks against the US
CNN's Christiane Amanpour provides analysis following a summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
CNN
CNN's Christiane Amanpour provides analysis following a summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Now playing
01:59
Amanpour: Biden did something very different than Trump
President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, at the 'Villa la Grange', in Geneva, Switzerland.
Patrick Semansky/AP
President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, at the 'Villa la Grange', in Geneva, Switzerland.
Now playing
02:55
Ward describes 'uncomfortable' photo op between Biden and Putin
biden putin summit us russia press pools clash collins sot vpx_00012417.png
biden putin summit us russia press pools clash collins sot vpx_00012417.png
Now playing
01:40
Collins: 'Combative exchanges' between Russian and US press corps
Pool
Now playing
02:49
See Biden and Putin shake hands as summit begins in Geneva
GAZA CITY, GAZA - JUNE 15: Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City, Gaza on June 15, 2021. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
GAZA CITY, GAZA - JUNE 15: Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City, Gaza on June 15, 2021. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:58
Israel launches airstrikes in Gaza over incendiary balloons
China successfully launched the first module of its planned space station from the Wenchang launch site in the southern island of Hainan, according to the China National Space Administration.
CCTV
China successfully launched the first module of its planned space station from the Wenchang launch site in the southern island of Hainan, according to the China National Space Administration.
Now playing
01:04
See China's last rocket launch to send in space key component of its space station
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - MARCH 18: A view of daily life in part of street on March 18, 2021 in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic.  Most of the population in Bangui live well below the poverty line, in a country traumatised by years of unrest. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Getty Images)
Siegfried Modola/Getty Images
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - MARCH 18: A view of daily life in part of street on March 18, 2021 in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic. Most of the population in Bangui live well below the poverty line, in a country traumatised by years of unrest. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Getty Images)
Now playing
06:12
Russian mercenaries accused of atrocities in the Central African Republic
Taiwan has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic US-China war. The worry about Taiwan comes as China wields new strength from years of military buildup. CNN's David Culver reports.
PLA Air Force/Weibo
Taiwan has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic US-China war. The worry about Taiwan comes as China wields new strength from years of military buildup. CNN's David Culver reports.
Now playing
04:04
Dramatic videos show Chinese naval exercises amid rising tensions over Taiwan (April 2021)
View of the construction site of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Taishan city, south China's Guangdong province, 12 September 2012.
Zhou huadong/Imaginechina/AP
View of the construction site of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Taishan city, south China's Guangdong province, 12 September 2012.
Now playing
03:30
Concerns over possible leak at nuclear plant in southern China
screengrab japan lonely death
CNN
screengrab japan lonely death
Now playing
04:04
Inside Japan's growing 'lonely death' clean-up service
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a special session to vote on a new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. - A delicate eight-party alliance united by animosity for Netanyahu is poised to take over with right-wing Naftali Bennett as prime minister, if the coalition deal passes today's slated parliamentary vote. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a special session to vote on a new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. - A delicate eight-party alliance united by animosity for Netanyahu is poised to take over with right-wing Naftali Bennett as prime minister, if the coalition deal passes today's slated parliamentary vote. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:39
Former ally replaces Netanyahu as Israeli prime minister
CCTV via AFP
Now playing
01:54
Video of explosion aftermath in China shows a harrowing picture

Story highlights

Residents of Baoding, China live under a toxic shroud

But the country's most polluted city is leading a renewable energy drive

Editor’s Note: Be part of CNN’s climate change coverage: We’d like to hear from you on how climate change could affect your local community. Upload your video here, or tag #2degrees on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Baoding, China CNN —  

In Baoding, China, the country’s most polluted city, the smog is thick enough to see. It can burn your eyes and it can leave an acrid taste in your mouth.

This is the reality of daily life under the cloak of a toxic shroud.

It’s the air Zhao Shuang and his family breathe in every day. He grew up in Baoding, and remembers a childhood of sunny skies.

Today, that is a rarity. His young son is a year old and has seen far more gray skies than blue.

“When the pollution gets really serious, we can’t even see the buildings next to us,” said Zhao, from inside the small apartment he shares with his son, wife, and mother.

On Monday, the air quality reading (AQI) at one of the city’s own monitoring stations stood at nearly 1,000, the worst in the country, according to China’s own Ministry of Environmental Protection. According to United Nations guidelines, a reading of more than 100 is unhealthy for at-risk groups.

On the day Zhao spoke to CNN, the air quality wasn’t that bad – just four times higher than the United Nations’ guidelines. But in a place like Baoding, that counts as a good day.

Read next: China issues smog alert