Extreme weather conditions: Greenpeace warns of climate risk in China | Climate News


Major urban centers in China, including the capital Beijing and its most populous city Shanghai, are expected to face hotter and longer summers, as well as wetter rainy months, a new study warned on Wednesday. Greenpeace mapping extreme weather conditions due to climate change.

Greenpeace East Asia said the risk of extreme heat and precipitation is now highest in densely populated city centers, but is increasing rapidly in increasingly urban communities on the outskirts of major cities across the country.

This could mean greater exposure to dangerous heat waves for the elderly and those who work outdoors as well as greater flooding in cities like Shanghai, Liu Junyan, climate and energy project manager for Greenpeace told Beijing, as it called on the authorities to adopt more effective measures to prepare for such conditions.

“Urban areas still don’t fully understand the variety of changes, and which will impact which areas and how, enough to be ready for them,” Liu told Al Jazeera.

The study found that Beijing is experiencing the “greatest increase” in average temperature, increasing at a rate of 0.32 degrees Celsius (0.58 degrees Fahrenheit) every 10 years, with the frequency of heat waves increasing “dramatically. ” since 2000.

Taking into account the expected peak in global emissions around 2040, the temperature rise in parts of Beijing could exceed 2.6 ° C (4.7 ° F) by 2100 and summers would lengthen by 28 days , the study added.

“For Beijing, we know this temperature rise will look like more days with temperatures at 35 degrees [Celcius] or warmer temperatures, ”Liu said.

“Above all, a 2.6 degree rise means greater exposure to heat waves. Older people are at risk, as are people doing heavy outdoor work, such as construction workers and delivery drivers. “

In February of this year, the temperature soared to 25.5 ° C (78 ° F) in some areas – the highest temperature recorded during the winter season – according to several weather monitors and reports.

Greenpeace said summers would also lengthen from 24 to 28 days in Shanghai and more than 40 days in southern Guangdong province. Parts of Shanghai and Guangdong province would also see an increase of more than 25 percent in extreme rainfall, while the northwest of the region would experience more drought.

The Greenpeace warnings follow similar studies showing an increased risk in China of extreme heat linked to climate change.

A July 2018 study published in the journal Nature Communications noted that the frequency and intensity of heat waves seen in China have “increased significantly” over the past 50 years. He also warned that up to 400 million people in northern China, including Beijing, could be affected by deadly heat waves by 2100.

A December 2020 report published by The Lancet, a respected medical journal, said heatwave-related mortality in China increased “by a factor of four from 1990 to 2019, reaching 26,800 deaths in 2019”.

The biggest polluters

On Monday, Frontiers in Sustainable Cities magazine said Beijing and Shanghai were among 23 Chinese cities of the world’s 25 major urban centers that produce 52 percent of greenhouse gases each year.

The list also includes Tokyo and Moscow. Cities in the United States, Europe and Australia still top the list in terms of population numbers, although several Chinese cities such as Yinchuan and Dalian as well as Urumqi in Xinjiang also recorded broadcasts by people approaching the level of developed countries, according to the authors of Sun Yat-sen University and a pollution watchdog in Guangdong province are both in Guangzhou.

In September 2020, President Xi Jinping said China is aiming for peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2060, as part of the country’s commitment to tackle climate change.

The sprawling urban area of ​​Guangzhou on the south coast of China. featured prominently in Greenpeace’s East Asia study, which found that 73 of the 98 heatwaves in the region over the past 60 years occurred after 1998.

The average number of days of extreme heat in Guangzhou (35 ° C / 95 ° F or more) has increased from 16.5 days per year to 23.7 days per year since then, he noted.

Seniors use fans to cool off in Beijing in early summer 2019 [File: Fred Dufour/AFP]

The Greenpeace study predicted that the average temperature change for the southernmost regions of Guangdong Province would reach 2C (35.6F), effectively extending the summer by more than 40 days.

In May this year, rising temperatures caused an electricity shortage in Guangdong, prompting local authorities to reduce electricity consumption, affecting the productivity of the manufacturing sector.

“We have been told to stop production two days a week, in accordance with electricity limitation policies,” a staff member named Miao at a copper plant in the province told the state newspaper Global Times. As a result, the planned delivery dates from the factory were delayed.

From extreme heat to devastating floods

Due to the extreme heat, Guangdong Province is also expected to face more intense flooding during the rainy months. In the southeast of the province, where the city of Shenzhen is located, extreme rains would increase dramatically, with the hardest-hit areas receiving more than 25% more extreme precipitation, Greenpeace said.

Likewise, Shanghai and its region, where the Yangtze Delta flows, also face the dilemma of extreme rainfall leading to massive flooding.

From 1961 to 2019, the average accumulated precipitation for the Shanghai Yangtze River Delta was 1225.6 mm (48.3 inches). Although it has fluctuated over the years, Greenpeace said it has “steadily increased” at an overall rate of 34.6mm (1.4 inches) every 10 years.

The year with the highest precipitation was 2016, with 1666.9 mm (65.6 inches) of total cumulative precipitation.

According to Greenpeace, the cities of Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou and Ningbo – the cities with the highest density in terms of population and economy – are particularly at risk of extreme rainfall.

An aerial photo shows the Yangtze River in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province during a major flood in July 2020 [File: Stringer/China Out via AFP]

“Flooding is already a serious problem in Shanghai, and we can expect more flooding in the future and more devastating impacts from the floods,” Liu said.

In 2020, severe flooding hit many cities along the Yangtze River, Asia’s longest river. According to government data, more than 140 people have been killed, 38 million others have been affected and 28,000 homes destroyed in the worst floods the country has seen in 30 years.

OOther areas of China that historically have not experienced much flooding, such as Hotan, also known as Hetian, in Xinjiang, have also been affected, Liu noted.

The Shanghai metropolis and surrounding urban areas have also seen rising temperatures.

In Hangzhou, just southwest of Shanghai, temperatures have reached 35 ° C (95 ° F) or more than 429 times in the past 60 years, with 177 (41 percent of the total) since 2001.

The highest temperature recorded at Hangzhou Weather Station was 41.6 ° C (106.88 ° F) in 2013, followed by 41.3 ° C (106.34 ° F) in 2017.

Liu of Greenpeace said major Chinese cities should anticipate and prepare for weather disruptions, adding that there was a need for “scientific and systematic investigations” into the effects of climate change.

He also said that small towns, where extreme weather risks are increasing the fastest, also need to be better prepared for different types of climate risks.

“Cities need comprehensive surveillance to develop early warning systems for vulnerable communities and vital infrastructure. The interface of science and policy will determine whether vulnerable communities can receive appropriate attention and care in the face of this risk, ”Liu said.

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