Global Warming in China: Living With Today’s Social and Economic Dilemmas – Sampan – Sampan

There is no doubt that human beings are already living in the era of global warming – everywhere, including China. In Shanghai, we have gone through 49 days of so-called high-temperature (over 35°C) days in the past two months. There were 7 days officially recorded over 40 °C. The last time that Shanghai was this hot was 150 years ago. Besides, keep in mind that Shanghai is a humid city, which can make 40°C feel like over 50 °C. What has come with this extreme heat is the drought in the city. It often comes strange to most Shanghainese, because in the years before 2022, no matter how heated the city became, there was always rain. In June and July, it is “the Plum Rain Season” in most east-coast cities. It is called “the Plum Rain Season” because humidity, heat, and rain are perfect weather for plum, and all of the 3 ingredients are essential elements of the weather in these two months. In the scorching August, there are usually a few typhoons coming from the Pacific, which results in heavy rain and thunderstorms. However, this year is different. Month-long Plum Rain Season shortened to several days with meager rainfall; even 2 typhoons that swept across Shanghai made little impact.

What’s happened in Shanghai is by no means the worst picture of global warming in China. Shanghai is a flat city with no mountains or forests; it is a city of economy after all and with all the natural resources supported from all over the country. Human experiential heat may be our only complaint and each household has at least one air-conditioner. However, those who live in the inner provinces and are heavily dependent on natural resources are not so lucky.

Jiangnan, Jianghuai, Jianghan and Sichuan and Chongqing are the places which have had the worst of heat and drought months. The drought in Yangtze River is extremely worrisome in terms of its disastrous effect on agriculture and farming. Yangtze River is commonly quoted as the mother river of China, because its river has been used for water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, and many other industries in China. The total area of the Yangtze Delta area generates as much as 20% of China’s GDP.

From July to August, rainfall in the Yangtze River basin decreased significantly, with the average precipitation in July reaching 141.2 mm, 48.2% less than the same period of the year, which is the lowest in history since 1961. Since August, the cumulative precipitation in Jiangnan, Jianghan, and the eastern part of the southwest is less than 10 mm, and the unusually persistent high intensity heat made the drought develop rapidly. On August 19th, a satellite showed that the Yangtze River basin – Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake has shrunk 3/4 of its water surface, compared only to the early June this year. The water level of Poyang Lake had already lowered 11.99m back in early August, which means it entered its dry season over 100 days in advance. Up to now, the area of medium drought and above in the Yangtze River basin has reached 1.267 million square kilometers, including 89,000 square kilometers of extreme drought. 12.32 million acres of land, 830,000 people, 160,000 head of livestock have been affected by the drought and lack of water supply in Sichuan, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui.

Drought led to lack of water supply, which in turn caused the governmental restrictions on its electricity and water supply in Sichuan and Chongqing – the two most affected province and city. On August 14th, Sichuan Province Economic and Information Office and the State Grid Sichuan Electric Power Company jointly issued On the Expansion of Industrial Enterprises to The People’s Implementation of The Emergency Notice, requiring all industrial enterprises full power and production stop from August 15th to 20th. In Chongqing – the city nicked as one of the four furnaces in China – has also issued similar policies. Worse than Sichuan, Since August 17th, there were 14 mountain wildfires raging in Fuling, Jiangjin, Banan and other districts of Chongqing, affecting 10 districts and counties. One can see rolling smoke from the downtown. The city mobilized more than 5,000 professional rescue teams, forest firefighters, armed police forces, fire rescue, and resident volunteers to try to put out the fire. Forest fire rescue teams of more than 1,000 people from Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and other provinces also came to support Chongqing. City Emergency Management Bureau of Air Rescue Headquarters utilized 7 helicopters to carry out aerial firefighting. Not until August 26 did the city finally put out all the open fires.

If you can imagine, the extreme drought and heat are also detrimental to agriculture and aquaculture. In August, south-central Anhui, western and southern Hubei, northern Jiangxi, and the eastern Sichuan basin, rice, corn and other autumn food crop growth has been greatly impacted by the drought to varying degrees. Fruit farmers are also suffering the worst time of all times. In the Jiangnan area, sunlight has caused sunburn on the fruit trees. One can see with his or her bare eyes that all of the leaves are dried by the heat and fruits dropped long before the mature season. If the living things on the earth do not survive the drought, then the fate of those who habituate in water is of course in dire. In Wuhan, the first Covid city of the world, experiences its great challenge in aquaculture. As the water temperature rises, it exceeds the critical temperature for warm water fish, shrimps and crabs to live in. Heat also drains the oxygen under the water which is essential for living organisms. With high water temperature and the dissolved oxygen rate of the water body decreases, many fish ponds experience the hypoxic flooding, fishermen therefore suffers economically. Now it’s towards the end of August. Heat broke in these two days in Shanghai and most of the other cities. Autumn finally came. However, the memory of the extreme heat is still near and what it means is that winter will not be easy for human beings. Extreme coldness usually comes hand in hand with extreme heat. Ten years ago, many people, including Chinese, still thought that global warming may be the issue of the next generations’, but now reality has hit us all hard. What should we do? How fast should we take actions? These are the questions Chinese governments need to answer.


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