The Impacts of Climate Change in China

Standard Page - 2010-01-20
China's population of over 1.3 billion is already starting to feel the pressure of increased drought, natural disasters and more. The Himalayan glaciers which feed China's rivers are melting at a worrying rate. Droughts, flooding, and other extreme weather events will also destroy crops and farmlands.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt. Average global temperatures have risen every decade since the 1970s. And it is not only scientists that are witnessing these changes. China's population of over 1.3 billion is already starting to feel the pressure of increased drought, natural disasters and more.

The residents of Pumai village depend on the glaciers of Mt. Everest for their water supply, but are now facing water shortage and drier conditions as the glaciers retreat.

Here are some of the very real threats that China faces from climate change:

  • Millions will go thirsty: The Himalayan glaciers which feed China's rivers are melting at a worrying rate. Over a billion people rely on these rivers for their drinking water.
  • Millions will go hungry: Droughts, flooding, and other extreme weather events will destroy crops and farmlands.
  • Millions will suffer from disasters: Extreme weather events such as storms, droughts and floods will become common and threaten lives across the country.

Early impacts of moderate global warming

Unfortunately, developing countries will suffer the most from climate change, despite contributing the least to global warming. The greatest impacts will be on the poorer countries least able to protect themselves from rising sea levels, spread of disease and declines in agricultural production in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

We are already experiencing dangerous climate change; we need to act to avoid catastrophic climate change. While not all regional effects are yet known, here are some likely future effects if we allow current trends to continue:

  • Sea level rises due to melting glaciers and the thermal expansion of the oceans as global temperature increases
  • Massive releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and dying forests
  • Natural systems, including glaciers, coral reefs, mangroves, arctic ecosystems, alpine ecosystems, boreal forests, tropical forests, prairie wetlands and native grasslands, will be severely threatened.
  • Rise in existing risks of species extinction and biodiversity loss.
  • Increased extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods.
  • Severe impacts on a regional level. For example, in Europe, river flooding will increase over much of the continent, while in 50 years, southern Europe will be drying completely
  • In coastal areas the risk of flooding, erosion and wetland loss will increase substantially.

Long-term catastrophic effects

Should world governments fail to commit to reduce carbon emissions, climate change may very well spiral out of control and change our planet forever. These are some of the long-term catastrophic effects:

  • Melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet. Global warming may trigger the irreversible meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet in the coming decades, which would add up to seven meters of sea-level rise, over some centuries. There is new evidence that the rate of ice discharge from parts of the Antarctic mean that it is also at risk of meltdown.
  • The slowing, shifting or shutting down of the Atlantic Gulf Stream current, which can have dramatic effects in Europe and disrupt the global ocean circulation system.
  • Catastrophic releases of methane from the oceans leading to rapid increases of methane in the atmosphere and consequent warming (methane is the second biggest source of greenhouse gases after carbon dioxide).

Never before has humanity been forced to grapple with such an immense environmental crisis. If we do not take urgent and immediate action to stop global warming, the damage could become irreversible.

Learn more about:

Extreme Weather
Glacier Retreat in the Third Pole
Health, Food and Water
Sea Level Rise
Habitat Loss and Species Extinction

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<p>The impacts of climate change are already being felt. Average global temperatures have risen every decade since the 1970s. 2010 tied 2005 as the hottest year on record. Overall, the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 13 years. </p>
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