Steel Cities in China's Hebei Province. 2 Dec, 2014 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

Air pollution.

Nobody can escape it. Young or old, rich or poor, everyone is affected by the fine particulate matter hanging over many cities across China.

These images by celebrated photographer, Lu Guang, take you on a visual journey through China's industrial heartland, where the environment and the health of the people who depend on it are being affected. It's grim.

When I went to Jiangsu province I was shocked. These photos show how thick the air is, but you can't appreciate the odor through pictures. The smell is something I will never forgot.

So I was shocked when I got back to Beijing and crunched the data. I found that 90% of the country's cities have air pollution that is off the charts, even by China's own air quality standards.

Child in Protective Mask in Liguo Town. 4 May, 2015 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

And in Jiangsu and Hebei I was shocked again to find that 85% of factories were actually illegally polluting the air.  

It makes me angry that despite progress we still face so many obstacles. But it's also driving me to take action.

Steel Cities in China's Hebei Province. 3 Dec, 2014 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

As the world's largest emitter of CO2, it has been both key to global economic growth, as well as central to the response to global climate change.

So will China set the pace for climate change politics this year?

I think there is momentum within China to tackle air pollution and reduce emissions.

Wind Turbines in China. 1 Apr, 2012 © Zhang Kecun / Greenpeace

Our work in profiling the impacts of air pollution (here, here and here) is proving that another future is possible. Others across China are breaking ground with cutting edge documentaries, or creating art questioning the impacts of pollution, and Chinese leaders are talking up the need for an ambitiours climate summit in Paris this year.

Any minute now, China will submit its plan for reducing emission after 2020. It could be many things, but in my heart I hope that some good will come out of these grim images of modern day China.

Because we all deserve clean air and a safe planet. Ask your leaders to Act for Climate.

Qiuxia Wang is a Climate Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.