A new report published in the science journal Nature Climate Change estimates that China’s summers will become much more extreme in the next two decades, citing climate change as the primary cause.
In 2013, Eastern China experienced its hottest summer on record, estimated from historical accounts to be the worst in at least 140 years. Scores of cities and counties suffered temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, setting a record in Shanghai and sending citizens out onto the street to cook shrimp, eggs and bacon on searing hot manhole covers and pavement.
Research conducted by the China Meteorological Administration, the Canadian government and a researcher from the University of Victoria in British Columbia has analyzed climate data from Eastern China and concluded that this extreme heat – experienced perhaps once every 270 years – will become increasingly common in the next 20 years. The team estimates that, if emissions-induced global warming continues at its current rate, such record temperatures could eventually hit the country every other year.
The researchers write that summer (June-August) mean temperature in Eastern China “has increased by 0.82 °C since reliable observations were established in the 1950s, with the five hottest summers all occurring in the twenty-first century.” The “anthropogenic influence” on China’s temperature has increased the likelihood of extreme summers by a factor of 60, “with fully 50 percent of summer being hotter than the 2013 summer in two decades” even under moderate emissions scenarios.
This climate change is already having a significant impact on China’s health and economy. Financially, the current drought in China’s northeastern Manchurian plain is projected to cost the country $59 billion RMB; mortally, several dozen were reported to have died due to the heat, but the Weather Underground’s Christopher Burt said the real number could have been in the thousands.
China currently emits the largest portion of global greenhouse gases and is the world’s top coal producer and consumer. To cut down on its air pollution, it has pledged to implement a nationwide cap-and-trade program in 2016.