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A good year ago, dramatic images reached us from Henan: flooded streets, cars swept away by torrents of water, a subway in Zhengzhou with the passengers up to their upper bodies in water. Officially, more than 300 people died in the flood disaster in the central Chinese province in mid-July 2021.
And this year extreme weather has returned: Temperatures in Henan have already climbed to over 40 degrees. In other regions, floods and landslides are again on the rise. Climate change could hit with full force in the future. China is threatened with losing up to 20 percent of its harvests. The People’s Republic wants to better adapt to climate change – but so far the government has done not enough to minimize the costs and damage, writes Nico Beckert. Among other things, this issue is still not a priority for the relevant authorities. Funding also remains problematic.
The Chinese Communist Party may perceive a different problem as far more pressing right now: Since the chaotic lockdown in Shanghai, in particular, citizens’ trust in the Chinese government and its zero-Covid pandemic response has waned. In some places, Covid apps have allegedly even been misused to prevent protests, writes our author Christiane Kuehl. Frustrations are also rising among local cadres. It might take a while before these wounds are healed.
Climate change ‘major risk for China’s modernization’
40 degrees Celsius and more in the northeast. Heavy rain and flooding, sweeping away cars and houses in parts of southern China – the People’s Republic also recently experienced severe weather events. Landslides resulted from the heavy rain. Five people died after their house was swept away by the floods. Temperatures in Henan Province, with a population of almost 100 million, climbed to over 40 degrees for several days.
The People’s Republic has become the biggest climate offender and is responsible for over 30 percent of global carbon emissions. At the same time, the country is a major victim of climate change. China is at risk of losing up to 20 percent of its harvests. Floods endanger infrastructure and heat waves not only affect people’s health, but also reduce their work productivity (China.Table reported).
Climate change as a ‘major risk to China’s modernization’
The government sees climate change as a “major risk to China’s modernization,” according to the new National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035. The adaptation is intended to reduce damage and economic costs. After all, even if the global community achieves its climate goals, the effects of climate change will not disappear immediately and the damage caused by climate change will continue to increase for a while. Emitted carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere for a long time, harming the climate for decades to come. Adaptation to these new conditions in order to mitigate the damage is considered crucial.