Climate Change is Damaging China's Yangtze River Basin

BEIJING, Nov. 12 (UPI) — Climate change is damaging the Yangtze River basin, scientists say.

The Yangtze River Basin Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Report released Tuesday by the World Wildlife Fund said temperatures in the basin, a lifeline for one-third of China’s population, have been rising since the 1990s.

The report’s lead researcher, Xu Ming of the Chinese Academy of Science, said next month’s negotiations on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, would have a direct impact on the Yangtze.

“Controlling the future emissions of greenhouse gases will benefit the basin, at the very least from the perspective of drought and water resources,” Xu said.

Over the next 50 years temperatures in the basin will climb by an average of 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius, leading to an increased number of natural disasters, the report warns.

The basin, which includes some of China’s most productive agricultural areas, has already seen a sharp increase in flooding, heat waves and drought over the past two decades as temperatures rose by an average of 1.04 degrees Celsius between 1990 and 2005, the report states.

Climate change will make coastal cities like Shanghai more vulnerable to sea level rises, extreme climate events, as well as natural and “human-induced disasters,” it warns.

Sea levels in Shanghai rose 11.5 centimeters over the last 30 years and will rise by an additional 18 centimeters by 2050, threatening the city’s water supply, the report states.

The report urges China to implement a series of adaptive measures to deal with the effects of climate change on the region’s fragile ecosystem, including strengthening the management of major hydro-engineering projects, adopting market-based water allocation and more flexible cropping systems.

In other developments related to the Yangtze, China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua reported Thursday that it is unlikely the water level of the Three Gorges Reservoir will reach its target before the end of the year because of drought. The target level of 175 meters, which symbolizes the completion of the massive project, had been expected late October or early November. The current water level is just over 170 meters.

Located near the middle reach of the Yangtze River, construction of the $27.2 billion Three Gorges project began in 1993. The aim of the project is to supply China’s economic development with clean and cheap energy and to tame the unruly river. It includes a dam and 32 turbines each with an installed capacity of 700,000 kilowatts.

Xu said the Three Gorges project is not the cause of the recent floods and droughts. The environmental impact of Three Gorges, he said, is “quite limited” and can only change the climate “in some parts” of the river basin. “At least there’s no proof so far to come to this conclusion,” Xu said, China’s Central Television reports.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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