The Chinese government’s “Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change” warns of significant risks to agriculture and water resources as a result of a changing climate.
Global warming may reduce crop yields, shrink rivers and increase the frequency of damaging droughts and floods, says the 700+ page report, recently released to the public. Chinese prosperity and economic growth may be hindered as a result.
If global warming trends continue unmitigated, Chinese grain output could fall between 5% and 20% by 2050. China is already the world’s largest consumer of grains and relies heavily on imports of key commodities. Any decrease in domestic production would be deeply felt.
Lin Erda, one of the chief authors of the report, remarked:
“Generally, the observed impacts of climate change on agriculture have been both positive and negative, but mainly negative. But steadily, as the temperatures continue to rise, the negative consequences will be increasingly serious. For a certain length of time, people will be able to adapt, but costs of adaptation will rise, including for agriculture.”
However, Lin points out that improved crop choice and more efficient use of irrigation and fertilizer could help the situation, suggesting that agri-science and new technologies will be crucial for China going forward.
The impact of climate change on China’s water resources may be sizable. Experts fear “severe imbalances in China’s water resources,” concentrated precipitation in the summer and autumn rainy seasons, and “increasingly frequent” floods and droughts.
“Without effective measures in response, by the latter part of the 21st century, climate change could still constitute a threat to our country’s food security.”
The report warns that 8 of mainland China’s provinces could face severe water shortages by 2050 (less than 500 cubic meters per resident), and 10 others could face lesser shortages. The continual retreat of glaciers in Tibet which feed many important rivers is also cause for concern, as is rising sea levels that could impact coastal cities like Shanghai.
Through it all, Chinese carbon emissions continue to rise. Rising by a predicted 10.4% a year, China’s emissions could grow to 9 or 9.5 billion tons by 2020. Achieving the Chinese government’s stated goal of a 40-45% reduction in economic carbon intensity by 2020 (the level of carbon pollution for each unit of growth) will be an expensive endeavor. China’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions will likely require 10 trillion yuan (USD $1.6 trillion) of investment, with half designated for energy-saving technology and clean energy.
The report emphasizes the importance of prompt action, noting that “many cost-effective and mature technologies for energy saving and new and renewable energy have already been widely applied. In the future, controlling greenhouse gas emissions will require more costly and less mature technologies.”
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