Climate change has threatened China with another deadly flood season

With the onset of the monsoon season in China, the National Climate Center’s forecast shows that floods in the north and south of the country could be as bad as last summer when torrential rains killed hundreds of people. Cities with millions of people have very little time to prepare.

More than 27,000 residents in 22 counties in the southern province of Guangxi were hit by heavy rains last week and more than 2,300 hectares of crops were damaged, causing 104 million yuan ($ 15.4 million) in damage. In Guangdong, another southern province, many cities have closed kindergartens, primary and secondary schools due to the rains.

Summer floods are a regular occurrence in China, especially in low-lying areas along the Yangtze River and its tributaries. But the intensity of the storm has increased as global warming has brought more extreme weather. Scientists have found evidence that the atmosphere can hold up to 7% more humidity for every degree Celsius of Earth’s temperature.

According to China’s National Climate Center, this year’s floods are expected to be “relatively bad” and “more extreme” than the historical average. Cities must be vigilant and recognize the growing threat posed by climate change, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the National Development and Reform Commission said in a separate report.

Cities around the world are struggling to protect their residents and infrastructure from increasingly unpredictable and dangerous weather. South Asia is in the midst of record-breaking heatwaves that have put millions of people at risk. In the United States, high temperatures in Texas are pushing the electricity grid, and wildfires are sweeping through Southern California again.

A 2021 report by the nonprofit CDP, which analyzed more than 800 cities, found that more than 43% of them had no plans to deal with extreme weather. This was evident in China last year, when floods in central Henan province killed 398 people. At least 12 of them were trapped at an underground metro station in Zhengzhou city as water entered the tunnel.

The tragedy has garnered unprecedented attention on Chinese social media, with users complaining that Chinese cities – even the most developed cities – have adapted to the changing climate and the greater frequency of extreme weather events. In Zhengzhou, for example, the meteorological department issued flood warnings, but other government departments did not take adequate action.

According to a report by the Swiss Re-Institute, China has suffered the second worst damage in the world since the 2021 floods, behind Europe’s $ 41.8 billion loss due to heavy rains in countries including Germany. At its annual parliamentary session in March, Chinese lawmakers said cities needed to improve their resilience to catastrophic events and improve flood protection by improving weather monitoring and warning systems.

Ahead of this year’s flood season, the Ministry of Housing and the NDRC called on cities to ensure that they cooperate with internal government departments to create emergency management systems for urban flood control, and asked the media to help raise public awareness on disaster prevention.

“More extreme weather events will occur and global temperatures will continue to rise,” said Kai Wenjia, an associate professor in the Department of Earth Systems Science at Tsinghua University. “The Chinese people and governments at all levels do not have enough understanding or preparation for climate adaptation and they have not paid enough attention to it.”

© 2022 Bloomberg

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