Climate: Risks loom for China: study

Climate change could reduce key harvests in China by a fifth if the gloomiest scenarios prove true, according to a study on Wednesday.

Publishing in the journal Nature, a team of Chinese scientists say China's climate "has clearly warmed" over the past half century, gaining 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1960.

The hotspots were northeastern China with a warming trend of 0.36 C (0.65 F) per decade, and Inner Mongolia, with a warming of 0.4 C (0.7 F) per decade.

Nationally, heatwaves have become more common, the number of cold days has fallen sharply and glaciers that are vital river feeders are in retreat, they say.

The last century was the warmest period since 1600 and the country's seven warmest years have all occurred in the past decade.

Climate extremes included droughts which hit the country in the 1960s, the late 1970s, early 1980s, the 1990s and in northeastern China in the last decade.

In 1998, floods inundated 21 million hectares (52.5 million acres) of land, destroyed five million homes in the Yangtze basin and inflicted 20 billion dollars in damage.

Floods this year affected 230 million people, of whom more than 15 million had to be evacuated from their homes, and left more than 4,200 people dead or missing, according to a toll issued on Tuesday.

The paper, lead-authored by Peking University environmental scientist Shilong Piao, warns of problems for China's racing economy in coming decades if climate change bites hard.

Accurate prediction, though, is hard, it says.

"China experienced explosive economic growth in recent decades, but with only seven percent of the world's arable land available to feed 20 percent of the world's population, China's economy may be vulnerable to climate change itself," it warns.

The biggest problem could be water stress, amplified by a growing and increasingly wealthy population.

Water is abundant in southern China but sparse in the country's north, and overall China's per capita water availability is only 25 percent of the world average.

"Many regions lie in transitional zones where water resources, and hence agricultural production, could be affected positively or negatively by changes in climate," the study says.

In the most favourable scenario, grain yields by mid-century could remain stable or benefit from the rise in carbon dioxide levels.

But in the worst scenario, there could be declines of four to 14 percent for rice, between two and 20 percent for wheat and between zero and 23 percent for corn in cases where these crops are rainfed rather than irrigated.

The comparison is the yields of these crops between 1996 and 2000. Any future improvements in agro-technology in coming decades are not factored in.

"The range of model results is large, implying large uncertainties," cautions the paper.

The many unknowns are reflected by the wide range in predicting warming for China as a whole - from 1 C to 5 C (1.8-9.0 F) by 2100, depending on worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases.

Computer simulations for climate impacts have advanced substantially for modelling what will happen worldwide, but lag when it comes to predicting regional effects, especially on rainfall, the paper says.

"To reach a more definitive conclusion, future work must... develop a better understanding of the managed and unmanaged responses to crops to changes in climate, diseases, pests and atmospheric constituents."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

    £16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

    £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map