HONG KONG — China is grappling with extreme weather emergencies across the country, with the worst flooding in decades submerging houses and cars in the south and record-high 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. Tuesday’s alerts were raised by Guangdong Province after floods and days of rain. Schools, businesses, and public transport were closed in the affected areas.
In southern China, flooding has caused havoc in the lives of nearly half a billion people. State media footage showed rescue teams on boats navigating through waterlogged roads to reach trapped residents. State television reported that factories in Shaoguan were told to stop production because water levels had reached a 50 year high.
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 totaling $261 million, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
China has been dealing with summertime flooding for centuries. But floods this past year also coincided heat waves that hit the northern part the country. According to the Central Meteorological Observatory, heavy rain is also expected the next few days.
Tuesday’s temperatures reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit in nine provinces in the northern and central regions. Local media reported that roadside temperatures in Henan reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit last week, causing cracks in cement roads. It looked like the aftermath of an earthquake.
The scorching heat in some of China’s most populous provinces has driven up the demand for air conditioning, fueling record electricity usage. The maximum electricity load for Shandong (a northeastern China province of 100 million people) reached a record 92.94million kilowatts on Tuesday. This is more than the 2020 record of 90.22 millions kilowatts.
Premier Li Keqiang stated Tuesday, while visiting a thermal power plant, that the country must increase its coal production capacity in order to prevent power outages.
The heat waves and floods in China this year have been ongoing for days and weeks. This is similar to last year when floods left hundreds dead, caused power outages, and displaced millions.
The two-pronged emergency in China’s weather reflects a global trend. Climate change is causing extreme weather to become more frequent and longer.
China has transformed thousands of farmlands into cities in recent decades, helping to lift millions out of poverty. But in its pursuit of economic development, 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 as a national priority. China launched a carbon market last year to curb its emissions. Over the past two decades, it has almost quadrupled the area of green space within its cities.
However, significant environmental damage has already occurred. The destruction and disruptions caused by greenhouse gases that have been emitted will likely continue in the future.
@Zixu Zhang in Hong Kong Li You in Shanghai contributed reporting.
Source: NY Times