Commentary RESEARCH

Cut emissions to build ecological civilization


2019-07-23 08:44

Chao Qingchen
China Daily

Heat waves across many European countries and extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heavy rainfall and floods caused by climate change have raised the concerns of environmentalists and ordinary people alike.

Intensive research and studies show that compared with the pre-industrialization period, the average global temperature between 2006 and 2015 was higher by 0.86 Celsius, and in 2018 it increased to 1.0 C. Worse, the period from 2014 to 2018 was the warmest five years in recorded history.

The rate of global warming is different in different regions and seasons. For example, temperature is rising faster on land than in the oceans, regions at higher altitude are heating faster than places at lower altitude, and temperature rise is higher in winter than in summer.

More important, the warming rate in China is twice as much as in the rest of the world. For instance, from 1901 to 2018, the average ground surface temperature in China increased by about 1.24 C, which is twice the world average. And the past 20 years have been the warmest since 1901-especially 2018, which was one of the 10 warmest years.

Climate change has had extensive impact on the natural ecosystem and human society. Since the mid-20th century, heat waves have occurred more frequently worldwide and lasted longer. Rainfall has become erratic, floods more frequent and cyclones common worldwide. In 2018, natural disasters affected 62 million people across the world.

Extreme weather events have increased in China, too, with torrential rains paralyzing life in cities as well as villages. In this century, drought-like conditions have affected many parts of China, increasing by 37 percent, 16 percent and 10 percent in the northeast, north and southwest regions. Plus, more typhoons are making landfalls in China.

Worse, it is forecast that half of the summer season would be marked by heat waves across China around 2024.

Being most sensitive to climate change, the ice sheets and glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic regions are melting at an unprecedented rate, raising raised sea levels.

The decline in the Arctic ice cover has been extremely rapid from 1979 to 2018. And the sea ice in Antarctic has been melting at a very high rate since 2016.

The melting of ice in the Arctic has not only led to extreme weather events, but also affected the land and ocean ecology and the environment, water resources, food safety, and regional social and economic development, creating great challenges for the world to protect the ecological environment.

So if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth's average surface temperature would rise by 0.3-4.8 C with disastrous consequences. If we act now, there is a possibility we could keep global temperature rise to below 2 C.

In order to build an ecological civilization, we need to understand that reducing emissions is the best way to mitigate climate change, prevent natural disasters and protect the environment and ecology.

In 2015, more than 170 countries and the European Union hammered out the Paris Agreement to cope with climate change. Last year, the signatory countries met in Katowice, Poland, and decided to formulate a long-term low-carbon emission development strategy, so as to achieve the agreement's objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Therefore, all countries should take joint and pragmatic actions to fight climate change. As for China, it will help propel the international process to adapt to climate change, and make due contributions to reduce climate risks and protect the global environment and ecology.

The author is deputy director of National Climate Center.



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