China Fears Disasters, Grain Cut from Global Warming
BEIJING Global warming threatens to intensify natural disasters and water shortages across China, driving down the country's food output, the Chinese government has warned, even as its seeks to tame energy consumption.
A forthcoming official assessment of the effects of global climate change on China will warn of worsening drought in northern China and increasing "extreme weather events", according to the Ministry of Science and Technology's Web site (www.most.gov.cn) on Wednesday.
A deputy director of the National Climate Centre, Luo Yong, was blunt about the risks for China's food production.
"The most direct impact of climate change will be on China's grain production," he said on Tuesday, according to the Science Times newspaper.
"Climate change will bring intensified pressure on our country's agriculture and grain production."
The official report promises to stir debate about whether and how China can balance its ambitious goals for economic growth with steps to rein in rising greenhouse gas emissions from industry and cars, which keep heat in the atmosphere and threaten to dramatically increase the planet's average temperatures.
Scientists have been uncertain about the effects of rising global temperatures on China's farming, unsure whether greater average rainfall will outweigh the costs of higher temperatures and more frequent natural disasters.
The official assessment concludes that hotter weather and increased evaporation will outweigh greater rain and snowfall. In the country's south, heavier rainfalls could trigger more landslides and mudslides, it also warns.
Luo indicated that by 2030-2050, China's potential grain output could fall by 10 percent, unless crop varieties and practices adapt to the increasingly turbulent climate.
An official from the Ministry of Science and Technology told Reuters that the government assessment was likely to be fully released in the first half of 2007.
The climate change warnings came as Chinese President Hu Jintao called for intensified efforts to save energy.
China should use price, tax and other financial measures to promote energy saving and curb wasteful use, Hu told a top party meeting, according to state media on Wednesday. Industries that consume excessive energy and pollute the environment should be shut down, the official Economic Daily quoted Hu as saying.
China, the world's fourth-largest economy and second biggest energy user, has set a goal to cut energy consumption per unit of national income by 20 percent by 2010.
But with coal-fired stations providing over 80 percent of China's electricity supply, China is on course to overtake the United States by 2009 as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases that warm the planet.
China has resisted calls for a cap even on emissions growth, arguing that most carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere was produced by developed nations as they industrialised, and they have no right to deny the same economic growth to others.