Chinese scientists have chillingly warned that the country's toxic air pollution is now so bad that it resembles a nuclear winter.
The acrid air is now so polluted it is slowing photosynthesis in plants – and potentially wreaking havoc on the country's food supply, experts have said.
He Dongxian, an associate professor at China Agricultural University's College of Water Resources and Civil Engineering, said new research suggested that if the smog persists, Chinese agriculture will suffer conditions "somewhat similar to a nuclear winter".
She warned that if smoggy conditions persist, the country's agricultural production could be seriously affected.
"Now almost every farm is caught in a smog panic," she said.
China's north has been battling a pollution crisis for more than a year, while the capital Beijing has been shrouded in poisonous smog. Authorities have introduced anti-pollution policies and often pledged to clean up the environment but the problem has not eased.
Earlier this month the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences claimed in a report that Beijing's pollution made the city almost "uninhabitable for human beings".
A man in a smog-ridden northern city has become the first person in China to sue the government for failing to curb air pollution, a state-run newspaper reported this week.
Li Guixin, a resident of Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern province of Hebei, submitted his complaint to a district court asking the city's Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to "perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law", the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily said, according to Reuters.
"The reason that I'm proposing administrative compensation is to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we're the real victims," Li was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
"Besides the threat to our health, we've also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes, it is a beneficiary," he said.
With no sunlight able to breakthrough the gloom, residents in Beijing have had to watch the sunrise on TV – in scenes like a dystopian nightmare.
Amid a thick grey haze, the giant video screens in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square have beamed out images of the rising sun.
The severe smog is the worst China has seen since January 2013, when the LED screens broadcasted clear blue skies during an air pollution crisis that was termed the “Airpocalypse.”