Temperatures across China’s Yangtze River Basin could increase from 1.5 to 2 °C (2.7 to 3.6 °F) over the next 50 years, while extreme weather events will also become more frequent, according to the largest river basin climate vulnerability assessment yet done. Some 400 million people depend upon the basin.
The Yangtze River Basin Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Report, released in Beijing, not only describes the impact of climate change but also offers specific adaptation strategies for the Yangtze.
Extreme climate events such as storms and drought disasters will increase as climate change continues to alter our planet. Given the complexities and uncertainties associated with climate change, adaptation should firstly consider a ‘no-regrets’ strategy,” which does not require additional cost. If we take the right steps now, adaptation measures will pay for themselves.—Professor Xu Ming, the report’s lead researcher
|The Yangtze Basin|
|The Yangtze River is China’s longest, extending 6300 km in its main stream.|
|The Yangtze River Basin (YRB) covers an area of 1.8 million km2, encompassing about one fifth of China’s total territory, one third of the nation’s total population, and one quarter of its total arable land.|
|The YRB is also a major economic zone, contributing 41.1% of GDP, 35.4% of the nation’s total grain production and 31.4% of its forest area in 2007. In addition, the river basin is home to many rare and endangered species, such as the giant panda, Yangtze River Dolphin, and Yangtze Sturgeon.|
Specific adaptation measures discussed in the report include strengthening existing infrastructure, such as power supply, transportation as well as river and coastal dike reinforcement. Other steps involve promoting Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM), switching to more flexible cropping systems, and reducing human impact on fragile ecosystems.
Data collected from 147 monitoring stations across the 1.8 million km2 river basin points to a 0.33 °C temperature rise during the 1990s. This hotter weather led to a spike in extreme climate events and flooding across the Yangtze basin, a trend that is expected to become increasingly dire over the next 50 years. Other findings show that from 2001 – 2005, the basin’s climate grew even hotter, increasing by an average of 0.71 °C.
According to the new report, wetlands will be the hardest hit. Lower water levels will reduce the number of aquatic birds in the Central and Lower Yangtze while climate change strips wetland ecosystems of important resources. Other impacts that could affect the 400 million people whose livelihoods depend on the basin include more frequent snowstorms and drought.
The Yangtze River Basin Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Report was organized by WWF and compiled by more than 20 contributors from the Institute of Geography and Sciences and Natural Resources Research, China Academy of Sciences (CAS), Institute of Applied Ecology of the CAS, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment of the CAS, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), and Fudan University.