Box Impact of Climate Change on China

The energy projections in this Outlook make climate change an important challenge for the country. China's first National Climate Change Programme (NDRC, 2007), published in June 2007, recognises this and notes that climate change "will bring about significant impacts on China's natural ecosystems and social economic system in the future." This finding echoes those of an IPCC report on impacts of climate change, released a couple of months previously (IPCC, 2007). The issues of most concern are rising sea levels, an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events and glacial retreat in the north-west.

Even without global warming, China's climate presents major challenges. Most of China already experiences seasonal extremes of temperature, precipitation is unevenly distributed and natural disasters have had severe impact. More than one-quarter of China's area is already affected by desertification. Over 18 000 km of coastline and more than 5 000 islands are at risk in the event of a rise in sea level. Any exacerbation of these situations therefore poses a grave threat.

Because of the complexity of the climate system, it is difficult to foresee the regional and local impact of climate change. But there is a consensus among scientists that the repercussions of changes in average temperature will be severe and wide-ranging:

■ Agriculture: Without effective adaptation measures, agricultural yields are likely to decline and costs to rise. Droughts will become more frequent and longer, further aggravating desertification and reducing productivity; and the frequency of the outbreak of animal disease could increase.

■ Forests and ecosystems: Effects are already being observed, from shrinking glaciers in the north-west to a thinning of the Tibetan permafrost. Further warming would affect the geographical distribution of forest cover, increase the frequency of insect infestations and disease outbreaks, accelerate the drying-up of lakes and the shrinking of glaciers, and threaten biodiversity.

■ Water: Further warming would worsen the already declining runoff in China's main rivers and increase the frequency of extreme weather events, such as droughts in the north and floods in the west and south.

■ The coast: Sea levels have long been rising in China but the trend is accelerating, making adaptation ever more difficult. Hurricanes and storms are likely to become more frequent, aggravating coastal erosion. Groundwater and surface water are likely to become more saline and the homes of millions of people could be flooded.

The greatest danger to human health may be that of more frequent and intense heat waves, which are debilitating in themselves, because of heat stress, but also spread diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

power generation and improving the efficiency of coal-fired generation. Emissions from final use of energy in industry are 0.6 Gt, or 25%, lower in 2030. Transport sector emissions are 0.3 Gt, or 23% lower. Residential, services and agriculture sectors account for the remainder, 0.1 Gt.

Continue reading here: Policy Assumptions and Effects

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