China Publishes Its “Third National Assessment Report on Climate Change”

Stephen Zhao, Oxford University

On November 20th, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology officially released China’s “Third National Assessment Report on Climate Change” (Third Report). Work on the over 900 page report began in 2012 and has involved over 500 scientists working together for a period of three years. The findings of the report have been previously presented at the December 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Peru. However, this is the first time that the full version of the Third Report has been made available to the public. The Third Report is currently being sold but is only available in Chinese.


Temperatures

The Third Report revealed that average temperatures across China have risen by 0.9 to 1.5ºC from 1909 to 2011. The report predicts that this trend will further intensify in the future and temperatures across most of China will rise another 1.3 to 5.0ºC by the end of this century compared to the global average of 1.0 to 3.7 ºC. According to the New York Times, the Third Report also states that even if the global goal of containing future temperature increases to an average of 2 ºC in this century, temperatures across China will be substantially higher at 2.7 to 2.9 ºC.


Glaciers, Permafrost, and Sea Levels

The Third Report also stated that glaciers in China have retreated and will be retreating likely at an accelerated pace. From the 1970s to the beginning of the 21st Century, the area of glaciers and permafrost shrunk by 10.1% and 18.6% respectively. By 2012, permafrost had declined by 26%. Sea levels had risen more than the global average, by 2.9mm per year from 1980-2012. By the end of the 21st Century, the sea level in China will be 40-60cm higher than that of the 20th Century.


Water and Weather

According to the Third Report, there has been a significant regional redistribution of precipitation as arid and semi-arid regions in West China have seen increased precipitation while in parts of northern, northwestern and southern China, rain and snowfall have decreased in recent decades. Precipitation is expected to rise 2-5% across the country over the course of this century, with a possible rise of 5-15% in North China and no significant change in South China. The Third Report also said instances extreme weather and climate change related natural disasters have accounted for over 70% of China’s natural disasters and that climate change may further intensify the occurrence of floods and droughts. Total water resources are likely to be reduced by about 5% in the future.


Agriculture

Food security in China is expected to decline and then rise, states the Third Report. From 1980-2008, climate change led to a fall in wheat and maize production of 1.27% and 1.73% respectively. However, there are also positive effects. Increased light and heat resources are expected to benefit agriculture and climate change is expected to increase crop acreage.


Overall, the Third Report concludes that China will be negatively impacted by climate change and that economic restructuring and technological improvement will be essential to efforts at energy conservation. The Tird Report also emphasized that while mitigation policies have been strong, policies concerning adaptation to climate change have been insufficient and need improvement.