Countering climate-change challenge

By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-11-16 07:06

Zheng Guoguang feels the heat of global warming even in the chill of the Beijing winter.

"Climate in China is projected to get warmer and climatic extremes and events will likely become more frequent, possibly leading to a drop in the production of major food crops," the new chief of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) told China Daily.

Chinese scientists have predicted that the average temperature will inch up by about 2 C by 2050 compared with the 2000 level.

In the latest effort to help mitigate the impact of climate change, Zheng has asked the 100,000 members working for the agency nationwide to develop measures to counter the adverse influence variable climate would have on food supply.

In many cases, crops grow faster when climate becomes warmer, but yields decline, Zheng said before heading to Spain to attend the 27th Plenary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC is expected to launch the fourth and final volume of its "Climate Change 2007" assessment report for policymakers tomorrow in Valencia.

"If no improvement were made to the current farmland, production capacity would perhaps drop by up to 10 per cent by 2030, when the population will peak at 1.5 billion," Zheng said.

The country would have to produce another 100 million tons of grain for the added 200 million residents by then, but climate change would probably make a big dent in grain output, he said.

For example, northern China - the primary producer of wheat and corn - is likely to experience a notable reduction in rainfall between 2010 and 2030, a looming threat to food and animal feed supply, according to sources with the National Climate Center.

Furthermore, climate change will exacerbate the vulnerability of the agricultural sector in many other countries, meaning less grain would be available for international trade.

"Against the backdrop of global warming, China has an imperative need to revise its agricultural climatic zoning to better use climate resources, and minimize the detrimental effects," Zheng said.

For example, crops in some Central China regions could be planted and harvested twice thanks to increases in temperature; but crop varieties in some other regions have to be altered to better adapt to the climate change.

It's important to put into place an early warning system to cope with the impact of climate change on food security, he said.

Zheng revealed that the CMA would have in place a meteorological worker in every Chinese village in a few years.

"We'll continue to improve the monitoring and forecasting of extreme climatic events, and enhance international cooperation to reduce disasters induced by climate change."

On the IPCC meeting, Zheng said China has been tackling climate change seriously, being the first among the developing countries to prepare and implement a national climate change program in June.

In the 11th Five-Year Plan, China has set the goal of cutting carbon dioxide - the leading greenhouse trace gas - by 240 million tons by 2010.

Scientists have found that the globe's atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is a historic cumulative process.

The almost unrestricted emission of greenhouse gases by developed countries during their industrialization is partly to blame for the high concentration of greenhouse gases, he said.

Developed countries should take more responsibility to mitigate climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and offering technical aid, Zheng said.

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