Monday, September 04, 2006

China suffering worst drought in decades

China is suffering the worst drought in decades. Reservoirs are at 33% capacity and 17 million people are without regular drinking water. The economic losses could exceed 6.5 billion yuan ($817 million) according to state news agency, Xinhua. Chongqing is one province hardest hit, but other neighbouring provinces of Guizhou, eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi and central provinces of Hunan and Hubei have been severely affected [Reuters]. The drought is the worst since 1891 when meteorological records began and baking temperatures of 40C are common place throughout the region [BBC].
The situation is in stark contrast with the floods which hit many parts of south-east China in the last two months which displaced thousands and killed hundreds. In August typhoon Saomai hit China and swept through Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi [BBC]. More than one million people had been evacuated prior to Saomai’s landfall, but over 50,000 houses were destroyed and 104 died in the storms wake. In July up to 75 people were killed when typhoon Kaemi swept through Fujian province [BBC]. And also in July tropical storm Bilis killed 500 people, although official figures initially put the death toll at 188 people bringing with it accusations of a cover-up [BBC]. June’s monthly death toll was also high with at least 349 dying in storms. Seasonal heavy rains and typhoons cause hundreds of deaths in China every year. But meteorologists predicted 2006 would be particularly bad, with warm Pacific currents causing more typhoons than usual.
China’s battle with aberrant weather highlights what many have said are the symptoms of ‘global warming’. And today a report was published calling on greater action to tackle the ‘inevitable’. At this year’s annual meeting for the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA), Frances Cairncross said, "[Climate change] is undoubtedly going to happen on the basis of all we know at the moment” and she urged for immediate action. One of the most thorough reports was done by the International Energy Agency in the summer, and that suggested that even if we threw at climate change all we had at the moment, even if we put it all in place, we would still see a rise in the concentration of emissions … [So] although we've got to continue taking steps to slow it down, we've also got to realise we're going to live in a warmer world." [BBC]. According to the IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change]. The world has warmed by about 0.6 degrees this last century, and the 1990s were the warmest decade on record. Scientists say average global temperatures have varied by less than one degree since the dawn of human civilisation, although they fluctuated much more before that. The IPCC predicts a global rise of between 1.4C and 5.8C by the year 2100. Rising temperatures are thought to cause sea levels to rise as the oceans expand and polar ice melts. The IPCC says sea levels rose between 10 and 20cm worldwide during the 20th Century. And it predicts a further rise of between 9cm and 88cm by 2100. Most mainstream scientists believe that increased emissions of greenhouse cases, particularly carbon dioxide, are contributing to the warming of the planet. CO2 has risen from 290 ppm to more than 370 ppm since 1870 according to UNEP [United Nations Environmental Programme]. Posted by Picasa

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