China Releases First National Report on Climate Change

At the close of 2006, the warmest year in China since 1951, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the China Meteorological Administration, and the Chinese Academy of Science released the country’s first-ever National Assessment Report on Climate Change.

The assessment, begun four years ago and written in collaboration with nine other government departments, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the State Environmental Protection Administration, concludes that rising greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities are causing severe global climate change and that China must play an active role in tackling the negative impacts of this change on the global environment. The report predicts that the average temperature in China will rise 1.3 to 2.1 degrees Celsius by 2020 and 2.3 to 3.3 degrees Celsius by 2050. Meanwhile, the country’s annual average rainfall is projected to increase 2-3 percent by 2020 and 5-7 percent by 2050. This increase in precipitation is not expected to protect northern China against deepening water shortages, however, because warming temperatures will likely lead to greater evaporation, the study says. The assessment also forecasts that extreme weather events and natural disasters will occur more frequently as a result of climate change, reports Science and Technology Daily. Qin Dahe, the director of China Meteorological Administration, noted that in 2006, severe natural disasters caused 2,704 deaths as well as economic losses of 212 billion yuan (US$27 billion) in China. Noteworthy events included the destructive 100-year typhoon in Zhejiang Province in August as well as the worst droughts to hit Chongqing municipality and Sichuan Province in 50 years. While climate change poses threats to China’s diverse ecosystems and to its water, forest, coastal, and other natural resources, the most direct and greatest threat is to the food security of this country of more than 1.3 billion people. The report predicts that both crop distribution and production will be affected by the changes in temperature and precipitation, with the output of major crops such as wheat, rice, and corn falling by up to 37 percent in the second half of the century if no effective measures are taken in the next 20 to 50 years to address climate change impacts, according to Xinhua News. As the world’s second largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the United States-and likely the world’s largest emitter of the gas by 2010-China finds itself with a growing obligation to cut its mounting emissions of greenhouse gases, driven by the country’s roaring economic growth. The Chinese government considers a positive response to climate change as a new driving force for promoting green technology innovation and energy conservation. Policies and measures to address global climate change discussed in the report — including enhanced monitoring of environmental change and countermeasures, the adoption of energy-saving technologies, and the embrace of renewable energy, clean coal, and carbon dioxide capture and storage — are of great significance at all levels of government, serving as an important reference for both development plans and overall decision-making. This article reprinted with permission of the Worldwatch Institute.

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