Head of China’s weather service warns that climate change could make droughts, crop failures and energy shortages increasingly likely in the world’s most populous country

( Image by Lu Guang/Greenpeace)

( Image by Lu Guang/Greenpeace)

China’s most senior weather official has given a strong warning on climate change, saying that rising temperatures could have “huge impacts” on the country’s food and water supplies, state media reported on Sunday.

Rising global temperatures would harm crop yields, prompt “ecological degradation” and create unstable river flows, according to a Xinhua report of comments made by Zheng Guoguang, chief of China’s Meteorological Administration.

“As the world warms, risks of climate change and climate disasters to China could become more grave,” Zheng said.

Temperature increases in China over the past century had been more extreme than global averages, Zheng added.

Zheng said climate change is a “serious threat” to several of China’s flagship infrastructure projects,  including the Three Gorges Dam, which the country’s largest power station; a sprawling scheme that diverts water from the country’s rainy south to parched northern provinces; and a railway connecting Tibet with northwest China.

Zheng called for China to take a “low-carbon development path” but he also told state media that the potential for wind and solar energy was “limited”.

The weather official’s comments come as China and other large emitters prepare to release national climate plans that will outline potential emissions cuts and measures to adapt to climate change.

The plans, which will be submitted the UN over the next few months, will form the basis of a climate summit to be held in Paris at the end of this year, where it is hoped countries will agree a comprehensive deal to cut greenhouse gases.

Although some international media reported the comments as a rare admission of the threat that climate change poses to China, Zheng’s predecessor, Qin Dahe, issued a similar warning eight years ago.

Last year, the UN’s climate science arm, the International Panel and Climate Change said China faced multiple and potentially catastrophic risks from climate change, including widespread coastal flooding of megacities including Shanghai, falling crop yields and the melting of permafrost, which would harm water supply.

The comments from China’s most senior meteorologist came ahead of a UN report on the world’s climate in 2014.

Record ocean heat, high land-surface temperatures and devastating flooding were some of the defining characteristics of the global climate last year, said the World Meteorological Organisation.

 The blog was first published in thethirdpole.net

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