Over the weekend, temperatures in some cities topped 40C (104F). The ongoing heatwave, which is accelerating the pace of glacial melt, is sparking alarm over floods and mudslides. Fears also rose for Chinese cotton crops, as the Xinjiang region – home to 20% of the world’s cotton – is battling the effects of the intense and long-lasting warm front.
Like pretty much the rest of the world, China has not been spared by this summer’s heatwaves. The world’s third largest country has been experiencing an abnormal season, with record high temperatures baking Shanghai and other cities in Western regions since early June. Some 20 of China’s 31 provinces are being told to brace for extreme temperatures and potential forest fires.
On Saturday, the region’s meteorological bureau once again issued a red alert – the highest in a three-tier heat warning system – as temperatures in Kashgar, Hotan, Aksu, and Bazhou were expected to exceed 40C over the weekend.
China’s Xinjiang province warned of more flash floods and mudslides as the particularly “long-lasting” and “widespread” heatwave has accelerated glacial melting in mountainous areas, threatening the resilience of the country’s dams.
Chinese cotton is also at risk. The northwest region – home to China’s Uyghur population – produces roughly 20% of the world’s cotton. Cotton is an extremely water-thirsty crop. An estimated 20,000 litres of water is needed to produce 1 kilogramme of cotton, enough for a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Here, drought has been a big concern in recent weeks.
Yet, water shortages are nothing new. The country’s uneven resource distribution – with approximately 80% of water concentrated in South China – has always represented a colossal problem for northern regions, historically the core of national development. Increasing temperatures in recent years have only exacerbated the issue, rendering China unable to effectively supply enough consumable water in some provinces.
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Meanwhile, the excessive heat has also sparked demand for electricity to power air conditioning systems in homes, offices, and factories across the country, causing some trouble for the national power grid. With demand expected to reach a new high over the summer, the Ministry of Emergency Management has warned that safe operations would face “severe tests” – the BBC reported. According to state media, the load on the power grids has already reached record levels in seven provinces and regions.
The world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases pledged to reach net-zero emissions before 2060. However, it currently remains by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, which alone covers 60% of its electricity demand.
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