China reeling from rain, floods and extreme heat

This article was written by Tiffany May and was published in the Globe & Mail on June 24, 2022.

China is grappling with extreme weather emergencies across the country, with the worst flooding in decades submerging houses and cars in the south and recordhigh heat waves in the northern and central provinces causing roads to buckle.

Water levels in more than a hundred rivers across the country have surged beyond flood warning levels, according to the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece. Authorities in Guangdong province on Tuesday raised alerts to the highest level after days of rainfall and floods, closing schools, businesses and public transport.

The flooding has disrupted the lives of almost half a million people in southern China. Footage on state media showed rescue crews on boats paddling across waterlogged roads to relieve trapped residents. In Shaoguan, a manufacturing hub, factories were ordered to halt production, as water levels have reached a 50-year high, state television reported.

Guangdong’s emergency management department said that the rainfall has affected 479,600 people, ruined nearly 30 hectares of crops and caused the collapse of more than 1,700 houses, with financial losses totalling US$261million, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China has been grappling with summertime floods for centuries, but floods this year have also coincided with heat waves that struck the northern part of the country, where the heavy rain is also expected to move in the coming days.

Temperatures on Tuesday reached 40 C in nine northern and central provinces. In Henan, roadside surface temperatures as high as 73 C created ruptures in cement roads last week that resembled the aftermath of an earthquake, local media said.

The scorching heat in some of China’s most populous provinces has driven up the demand for air conditioning, fuelling record electricity usage. In Shandong, a province in northeastern China with a population of 100 million, the maximum electricity load reached a record 92.94 million kilowatts on Tuesday, overtaking the 2020 high of 90.22 million kilowatts, state television said.

Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday that the country must increase coal production capacity to prevent power outages.

The floods and heat waves in China this year have stretched on for days and weeks, as it did last year when weeks of floods killed hundreds of people, caused power outages and displaced millions in central and southwestern China, including in Zhengzhou, where flood waters trapped commuters in subways.

The two-pronged weather emergency that China is experiencing reflects a global trend of increasingly frequent and lengthy episodes of extreme weather driven by climate change.

China has converted farmlands to cities in past decades, lifting millions of people in rural areas out of poverty. But it has also become the world’s largest polluter, with greenhouse gas emissions exceeding those of all developed nations combined.

Xi Jinping has since become the country’s first leader pledging to tackle climate change. China introduced a carbon market last July to curb emissions and has over the past 20 years nearly quintupled the acreage of green space in its cities.

But environmental damage has already been done. The devastation resulting from greenhouse gases is likely to continue in the coming years.

Two-pronged extreme weather emergency reflects a global trend linked to climate change

Author: Ray Nakano

Ray is a retired, third generation Japanese Canadian born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario along with his 4 younger sisters. He resides in Toronto where he worked for the Ontario Government for 28 years. Ray currently practises in 2 Buddhist traditions: Jodo Shinshu and that of Thich Nhat Hanh. Ray is passionate about climate action and very concerned about our Climate Crisis. He has been actively involved in the ClimateFast group (https://climatefast.ca) for the past 3 years. He works to bring awareness of our Climate Crisis to others. He has created the myclimatechange.home.blog website, for tracking climate-related news articles, reports, and organizations. He is always looking for opportunities through the work of ClimateFast to reach out to communities, politicians, and governments to communicate about our Climate Crisis. He is married and has 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren. He says: “Our world is in dire straits. Doing nothing is not an option. We must do everything we can to create a liveable future for our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations.”

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