China and Climate Change: The Next Decade

In the past 24 years, more than 2,000 people have died in China due to extreme weather, including floods, droughts, typhoons and storms— all perilous products of climate change. Realizing the real dangers associated with global warming, China, the planet’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, recently developed a specific plan for adapting to climate change.

In a country where global warming has cost the government and its people nearly $33 billion in the past two decades, the National Development and Reform Commission (China’s top economic planning agency which drew up the climate change plan) said there are certain shortcomings to blame. A lack of public awareness, inadequate and aging infrastructure and a deficiency in health regulations are just a few.  In fact, in years prior, the Chinese government denied and ignored the country’s extremely high air pollution quotient, even though lung cancer rates were on the rise.

Depending on coal for 70 percent of its energy, China burns as much carbon dioxide as the rest of the world combined. The results of this heavy reliance on coal are staggering, leaving the country and its people in a dense fog of dangerous, heavily polluted air. Until recently, combatting climate change was only happening on a regional level. Now, the entire country is taking on the issue as a matter of priority.

A few highlights of the new plan are relatively routine, but could prove highly effective for a nation nearly paralyzed by pollutants: improve early-warning detection systems for natural disasters, promote better farming practices, protect nature and wildlife and improve infrastructure. However, the policy also calls for a few original, environmental goals relating to irrigation and artificial rainfall systems, including catastrophe bonds and weather index-based insurance. These financial measures will help protect owners of smaller farms when rainfall is in short supply.

Many are skeptical of the effectiveness of the new guidelines and wonder if true environmental adaptation will take place.  That said, the ministries of finance, housing, transportation, water, agriculture and forestry signed off on the policy report. This is certainly a step in the right direction, as less than seven years ago, not even climate change goals (empty or not) could be organized.

Let’s hope for a swift and easy implementation of these new guidelines.  A cleaner China makes for a cleaner world.

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