Last Friday, Beijing raised its four-tiered air pollution alert system to “orange” for the first time, as smog levels became hazardous. Friday’s alert responded to criticism the Beijing government faced for failing to act against high pollution levels the previous weekend, when levels of PM2.5 topped 500 micrograms per cubic meter—far above the 300 micrograms per cubic meter deemed hazardous by EPA. The alert is part of a monitoring plan introduced in October to rate the seriousness of air pollution. Under this system, smog levels are categorized from most to least serious and are tagged red, orange, yellow, and blue. While some residents praise the action taken, others feel that the government should be doing more. Although authorities have instituted policies to try to combat air pollution—investing in green projects and empowering courts to impose stiff penalties on rule violations—enforcement has been lacking at the local level, where authorities depend on taxes paid by polluters. For the full story, see and