Drought and heat wave in China threaten crops

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s autumn harvest is “severely threatened” by high temperatures and drought, authorities warn, calling for action to protect crops amid the hottest summer on record in the country. East Asia.

The world’s second-largest economy has been hit this summer by record high temperatures, flash floods and droughts – phenomena that scientists say are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

Southern China recorded its longest continuous period of high temperatures and scarce rainfall since records began more than 60 years ago, the agriculture ministry said.

Four government departments issued a notice on Tuesday urging conservation of “every unit of water” to protect crops.

“The rapidly developing drought, superimposed on high temperatures and heat damage, has caused a serious threat to fall crop production,” the notice said.

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China produces more than 95% of the rice, wheat and corn it consumes, but a reduced harvest could lead to increased import demand in the world’s most populous country. This would put further pressure on global supply already strained by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) have led several Chinese provinces to impose power cuts, as cities struggle to cope with a surge in electricity demand that is partly due to the makes people turn up the air conditioning to cope with the heat.

The megacities of Shanghai and Chongqing have cut outdoor decorative lighting, while authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan imposed industrial power cuts after water levels fell at major hydroelectric plants.

More than 1,500 people were displaced from the area surrounding Chongqing on Monday after hot and dry conditions sparked several forest fires, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The sweltering heat is also drying up the critical Yangtze River, with water flow on its main trunk about 50% lower than the average for the past five years, state media China News Service reported last week.

The country’s weather service renewed its drought and high temperature warnings on Tuesday, calling on all 11 provincial governments to activate emergency responses.

Authorities have already turned to cloud seeding – a method of inducing rainfall – in parts of the country.

State broadcaster China Central Television released footage this month showing meteorological personnel firing catalyst rockets into the sky and firefighters carrying water to farmers in need.

“This is the worst heat wave ever recorded,” Liu Junyan, climate and energy specialist with Greenpeace East Asia, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“Climate science shows that extreme heat gets exponentially worse,” she said. “So next year is more likely to have record heat.”

This year’s extreme weather is raising public awareness of climate change in China, with state media “now stepping up to cover climate impacts” with unprecedented urgency, Liu said.

Government climate expert Zhou Bing warned over the weekend of mass displacement caused by climate change, describing extreme weather as nature’s “revenge” on humanity.

China has experienced three other episodes of intense heat so far this century: in 2003, 2013 and 2017.

The gap between heat waves is “shortening significantly”, Zhou said.

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