How should China respond to melting glaciers and rising sea levels?

(Eco Business, 30 Sep 2019) The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere should ring alarm bells in China.

The new Special Report on the Cryosphere and the Ocean from the IPCC, recently unveiled in Monaco, paints a worrying picture of how the world may look at the end of the century.

If carbon emissions aren’t cut, sea levels will be 60-100 centimetres higher in 2100 than at the end of the 20thcentury. Small glaciers in Europe and East Africa will lose 80 per cent of their ice, placing water supplies for hundreds of millions of people at risk. The global ocean will absorb more carbon dioxide and acidify, 15 per cent of ocean life will die off and coral will be almost extinct.

China’s glaciers are crucial “water towers” both for its own people and the nations downstream so climate change will have a huge impact in the region. Given these challenges, experts say that despite international disagreements, a combination of global mitigation and regional adaptation is needed.

The disappearing Third Pole

After evaluating almost 7,000 academic papers, 104 experts from 34 countries have produced this report on the future of the earth’s ice and ocean. It predicts glacial melting will cause rivers to shrink and make extreme weather events both more frequent and more intense, and agricultural yields unpredictable. If global warming continues at the current pace, Asia’s mountain glaciers will shrink by 64 per cent by the end of the century – resulting in a severe water crisis.

China has more low-latitude glaciers than any other country, and the Third Pole of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau is the most important glacial region outside of the Arctic and Antarctic. It is also the source of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, and many other important international rivers, including the Brahmaputra, the Ganges, the Mekong and the Salween. Glacial melting will therefore affect other Asian nations downstream as well as China.

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Eco Business, 30 Sep 2019: How should China respond to melting glaciers and rising sea levels?