See the 'Smogpocalypse' China's President Left Behind to Attend Climate Change Summit

Beijing is under one serious pollution alert.

In Beijing, residents and visitors face the issue first-hand, struggling through the city's dense air wearing face masks to protect themselves from the pollution. Buildings and structures, including the iconic Tiananmen Square, disappear in the thick cloud. Things as close as one block away are erased in the gray atmosphere.

Chinese officials Sunday declared an “orange” alert, the second highest level after red, and the highest so far this year, as heavy smog has descended on the city, darkening it all, for most of November.

The alert requires all industrial plants to reduce or shut down production altogether. It also bans heavy-duty trucks from city roads and order construction sites to stop operations.

The smog covers more than 200,000 square miles around Beijing, neighboring Tianjing and the surrounding province of Hebei, all in the country's northeast. Earlier this year, China's Ministry of Environmental Protection said the most polluted cities in the country were in Hebei.

Only eight cities in all of China meet air quality standards, according to the country's environmental ministry. Beijing is among the worst, the ministry said earlier this year.

Different city and country officials can't seem to agree on what's causing the high levels of pollution in the Chinese capital right now. While city environmental monitors blame an increase in coal burning for the high levels of pollution, the country's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development puts blame on car exhaust.

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