Floods, Monsoons, Heat Waves, Drought: Climate Change In Asia Now


Chittagong, Bangladesh (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman)

In Asia, it's already a killer summer, even if the season hasn't started yet. A week after China released its action plan on climate change (sans emissions caps), 76 people have died over a six-day period in China's southern and eastern provinces due to severe flooding, brought upon by heavy rains. The floods have forced more than 788,000 people from their homes, caused damage estimated at more than 2.9 billion yuan ($371 million) and affected over 300,000 hectares of crops. State media reported that the director of the country's National Meteorological Center, Jiao Meiyan, attributed the rainfall in part to "global climate change." Meanwhile, a heat wave in India and Pakistan, where temperatures hovered at 50 degrees Celsius, has killed 340. In Bangladesh, heavy monsoon rains have killed 126.

The impact of climate change on developing nations in particular is like "low-intensity biological or chemical warfare," said the Namibia representative at a recent meeting of the UN Security Council, secretary general Ban Ki Moon writes in a recent editorial. "This is no academic exercise," the Namibian all but shouted. "It is a matter of life or death for my country."As Nicolas Stern's report reminded us last October, developing nations are feeling the brunt of a climate change that is being caused primarily by developed nations. That's because changes to the climate will tend to hit the poor hardest. And at the bottom of the pile--as Treehugger's Kenny Luna and the IUCN (World Conservation Union) reported recently--are children and women. Indeed, one chilling instance from the Bangladesh disaster, reported here by the Associated Press, bears this sad truth out.

It should also be mentioned that, elsewhere in this part of the world, Australia is recovering from serious flooding that has already cost the country A$200 million ($165 million)—sadly ironic considering it's also suffering through its worst drought in history.

A man inspects flood damage to his house in southeast China's Fujian province. (AFP)

Flash flooding is a summer ritual in China (flooding and typhoons killed 2,704 people last year, the second-deadliest year on record after 1998, when flooding claimed 4,150 lives). But extreme rainfall is exacerbated by climate change, as is the impact of floods: Tibet's glaciers, the sources for China's crucial Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, are melting, leading to higher water levels and more flooding. That's one of the reasons for the Three Gorges Dam, part of which began operation this week. Soon, though, higher water levels will give way to drought.

That's worrisome for many reasons, considering that these rivers not only help provide for the richest agricultural regions of the country: in the next few years, the Yangtze is supposed to provide water, via the country's largest aqueduct, to Beijing up in the drought-ridden north.

Last month, officials in Wuxi had to shut off water for 2 million residents after the famous Taihu Lake turned putrid due to the rapid growth of blue algae—a result in part of unusual dryness in the area.

And summer hasn't even started yet.

See also The Heat Wave is On.

Tags: Asia | Australia | Bangladesh | China | Developing Nations | India | Pakistan