Temperatures in China have been increasing faster than the global average over the past few decades, with extreme weather-related events becoming more frequent, a new government-backed report released Wednesday said.
China is a “sensitive area” that has been significantly affected by global climate change, according to the Blue Book on Climate Change in China published by the Climate Change Center under China Meteorological Administration.
Officials said the country was witnessing higher daytime temperatures — this July was hotter than previous years and the second-hottest since 1961 — while precipitation nationwide in July increased by 3.2% compared with previous years.
The report comes less than a month after deadly floods in Henan killed over 300 people and affected millions more. During the extreme weather event, the provincial capital of Zhengzhou recorded a year’s worth of rainfall in a day, inundating large parts of the city.
“The risks posed by climate change are expanding from nature to socioeconomic systems, and the long-term risks are noticeably growing,” Chao Qingchen, associate editor of the report, said during the launch Wednesday. “Continued heating-up and intensifying extreme weather events could pose significant threats to the ecosystem and socioeconomic development.”
As of July, this year’s floods have resulted in economic losses worth 123 billion yuan ($19 billion) in China. However, those losses are 22% lower than the average over the same period in the past five years, according to official data.
Here are some key findings from the report, a full version of which is yet to be released.
Warmer climate, rising sea levels
The year 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, and its effect was significantly worse in China, according to the report.
Between 1951 and 2020, China’s annual average surface temperature rose an average of 0.26 degrees Celsius every decade — about 73% faster than the global average during the same period. The last 20 years have been the warmest period for China since the beginning of the 20th century, with nine out of the 10 warmest years since 1901 recorded since 2000.
The average sea level near China’s coastal areas rose 3.4 millimeters annually from 1980 to 2020, also faster than the global average over the same period, the report said. Last year, the rise in sea level was 73 millimeters more than the country’s average from 1993 to 2011 — it was the third-highest since 1980.
The continuing rise in seawater temperatures have also led to severe coral bleaching along several sea areas and islands in China, the report said.
Increase in extreme weather
China has reported more extreme weather events, including high temperatures and heavy precipitation over the past years, indicating the rising risk of climate change.
Extreme heavy precipitation events have increased between 1961 and 2020, while significantly more extreme high temperatures have been reported since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, extreme low-temperature events have seen a decline, the report said.
China’s climate risk index has also risen during the past six decades, with the index’s average value from 1991 to 2020 increasing by 58% compared with the previous three-decade period. The index is a quantitative assessment of climate disaster risks based on historical data and predictions, along with analysis of losses brought by extreme weather.
What’s driving climate change
Greenhouse gases have been a major contributor to the rising temperatures in China and elsewhere. The global average concentrations of such gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, hit record highs last year, the report said, citing data from the World Meteorological Organization.
In China, the concentration of carbon dioxide emissions in otherwise pristine areas, such as the northwest Qinghai province, have been steadily increasing annually since 1990, the report noted.
Over the years, China has gradually reduced its dependence on coal, while adding more renewable sources to its energy mix. The country has pledged to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: People walk through heavy rain in Zhengzhou, Henan province, July 20, 2021. People Visual）