Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Drought strikes hard as global warming hits PRC

THIRST Climate change has left thousands of people without adequate potable water, but China lacks the means to help tackle the problem, a top scientist said

AP AND AFP , BEIJING

A devastating drought and unusually high temperatures have left 300,000 people short of drinking water in northwestern China, state media reported yesterday.

The drought has hit the densely populated Shaanxi Province, where rainfall last month was up to 90 percent below the average level from previous years, the Xinhua news agency said.

The drought could become even worse as temperatures this month were also expected to be higher than the same period in previous years and little rainfall was forecast, Xinhua quoted local meteorologists as saying.

Most parts in north China have been experiencing a warm winter with little snow and rain, Xinhua said.

The report came as China Meteorological Association head Qin Dahe (秦大河) told reporters that the nation was starting to feel the impacts of global warming.

He said China was concerned about global warming but lacked the money and technology to significantly reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions that are worsening the problem.

China is the world's biggest consumer and producer of coal, and is expected to surpass the US as the world's No. 1 greenhouse gas emitter in the next decade.

It wants to reduce its dependence on coal, but converting to cleaner energies on a mass scale would be prohibitively costly for China. It also "lags behind Europe and the United States" in the technology needed to burn cleaner coal, which accounts for 69 percent of its energy output, said Qin, who is also an adviser to the government on climate change.

"It takes time to catch up," he said at a news conference.

Qin served as one of China's representatives to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last week announced that global warming is very likely caused by mankind and that climate change would continue for centuries.

Qin's comments come as winter temperatures in China's capital have hit a 30-year high, state media said.

A separate Chinese report released last month said climate change could cause large drops in agricultural output over the coming decades.

In the latter half of this century production of wheat, corn and rice in China will drop by as much as 37 percent, and the country's average temperatures would rise by 2oC or 3oC in the next 50 to 80 years, the report said.

The China Daily newspaper said Beijing's temperature hit 12.8oC on Saturday -- a 30-year high for the date -- prompting an early spring, with frozen lakes melting and trees blooming.

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