Heatwave exposes Xi government’s tall claims

heatwave china

Extreme heat fuelled by climate change and inadequate government response is causing severe hardship and distress to Chinese citizens. More people face the risk of heat stress and even death as average temperatures increase across China.

According to the meteorological observatory, temperatures in northeast China are expected to remain high in the coming days, with mercury levels rising above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in certain cities.

CNN reported that China is expected to see soaring temperatures across several cities, including capital Beijing. Last week, Beijing’s temperature soared above 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit), setting a new record for the capital’s hottest day in June.

According to the country’s meteorological observatory, Beijing, Tianjin, Heibei, Shandong will “continue to be baked by high temperatures.”

In view of high temperature, China's national weather forecaster issued an unconventional outlook which talked about extremely hot weather conditions. The temperature in Beijing hit 106 degrees Fahrenheit on June 22, a public holiday for the Dragon Boat Festival. It was the highest June
recording since 1961.

Women, children and differently challenged are the most adversely affected in the heatwave, yet least able to access support. Such disproportionate impacts are a result of a host of factors, including lack of inclusion in emergency and adaptation planning, inadequate emergency communication, accessibility
issues, isolation, and economic marginalization.

The arrival of historic heat so early in the year has led many to fear a repeat — or worsening — of last year’s weeks-long stretch of unrelenting high temperatures that experts dubbed unprecedented in scale and duration.

Already, hospitals are reporting a rise in patients with heatstroke and at least one death.

A report in Washington poststated that the China’s centre for Disease Control and Prevention exhorted residents to take precautions by limiting time outside and avoiding physical exertion. A music festival which was scheduled to take place in Beijing’s Olympic Forest Park, was eventually cancelled in deference to the baking heat.

Following the heatwave, pressure has been piling up on China’s electricity producers as surging power demand threatens to overload the grid. Power authorities had recently conducted drills in how to avoid a repeat of electricity rationing last year, when extreme drought dried up reservoirs and left
hydropower stations idle in the southwest.

The frequency of extreme weather conditions in recent years has fuelled growing awareness of climate change in China. Once rarely reported on in official media, the dangers of a rapidly warming atmosphere are now commonly discussed. That shift came after the huge downpour that flooded Zhengzhou in 2021, when people were stranded half-submerged in a subway car or died in water-clogged underpasses.

Meanwhile, environmental activists have expressed deep concern over Climate change in China. Though climate change is a global problem, but China is one of the countries that is most vulnerable to its effects. the current extreme heat conditions in China are a clear sign of the effects of climate change.

This has caused widespread power outages, crop failures, and health problems. Some people argue that the government's poor planning was responsible for the country's vulnerability to climate change. They pointed out that China has built many cities in areas that are prone to flooding and drought.

The Chinese government’s fear of power outages has slowed a transition to renewable energy sources. Ironically, Beijing has approved more coal-fired power plants in the first three months of this year than any year since 2015, even as most of the rest of the world is winding down its use of the polluting fossil

Government sources believe that coal-fired generators — a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions — are the only way to ensure adequate energy supply.

A podcast titled Vistopia that produced by Greenpeace focussed on climate change. A series of episodes called “Climate Emergency! 20 Discussions on the Climate Crisis” 2022, explored how climate crisis impacts citizens of China.

According to the podcast, healthcare system was barely prepared to respond to climate change. “We haven’t all started anticipating what the worst case scenario here could be”. Disaster relief requires understanding meteorology, water conservancy, and disaster relief, but at present all of these fields in China are extremely isolated from one another.

That’s a barrier to interdepartmental, interdisciplinary communication and knowledge sharing. Chinese experts said that the government has taken some steps to address climate change. In 2020, China pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2060. The country is also investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

However, more needs to be done to reduce China's emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

What is happening in China today is a foretaste of tomorrow: a sign of possible things to come. The citizens of China must wake up now – before it is too late. China is facing heat: the fires there must be extinguished immediately.

Here are some of the things that China can do to address climate change:

  • Increase investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.
  •  Put a price on carbon emissions.
  •  Promote sustainable agriculture and forestry practices.
  • Adapt to the effects of climate change, such as building seawalls to protect
    coastal areas from flooding.

Xi Lao is a freelance journalist based in Taiwan.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor