China: We're not ready to deal with the impact of climate change

A lack of planning and public awareness has left the country unprepared for its new reality

Published December 9, 2013 2:53PM (EST)

China, the world's biggest current contributor to global warming, is already seeing the effects of its coal-dependent economy as dangerous air pollution smothers its major cities. But climate change's impact is only going to get worse -- and according to a report released Monday by the government's economic planning agency, a lack of planning and public awareness has left the country critically unprepared. From Reuters:

"Our country is a developing nation with a large population, complex climate conditions and a weak environment (situation)," the National Development and Reform Commission said in a report.

"Climate change is already a serious threat to food, water, ecological and energy security, and to people's lives and property," it added.

"The mission to deal with climate change is very arduous, but knowledge in society and ability to do this are weak across the board."

The report cites an increased number of droughts, earlier typhoons and rising sea levels as some of the impacts China is already started to encounter. Since the 1990s, it said, natural disasters have killed an average of 2,000 people each year. "In the future," the report warned, "the rising trend of temperatures will become even more obvious, there will be even more unfavourable impacts (from climate change), and if effective measures are not taken the losses from disasters caused by extreme weather will be even more serious."

The "weak links" in the country's preparation efforts, according to the report, include its inability to protect basic infrastructure, like power and water supplies, from extreme weather events. While the government has committed to moving toward renewable energy, at this point, it's also going to have to focus on dealing with the inevitable consequences of its -- and the world's -- reliance on fossil fuels.

By Lindsay Abrams

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Air Pollution China Climate Change Coal Natural Disasters