As the burners are fired up at full blast to stave off the biting winter cold, Beijing and its surrounding area started the New Year engulfed in smog.

In a replay of a similar situation in early December 2015 and just before the holiday period in December 2016, schools and some industries have been ordered closed, hundreds of flights grounded, and vehicle bans ordered on the roads.

But while these ‘airpocalypses,’ as they are dubbed by the press, threaten lives and health, they at least focus attention on a challenge that residents in the national capital region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—as well as other parts of Asia—are living with day in, day out.

During the red alerts, air quality in Beijing does indeed reach worrying levels. The level of harmful particulate matter, dubbed PM2.5 by the World Health Organization (WHO), was recorded at exceeding 500 micrograms per cubic meter... —