#36 event report: Will China Adapt? Recent Assessment on Climate Change

June 17, 2014, Bridge Café (Wudaokou)

Prof. Lin Erda, Coordinator Lead Author of WGII Report, Researcher at Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
Dr. ZHU Chunquan, Country Representative, China Office, IUCN


As the effects of climate change start crippling people’s lives in different ways in numerous parts of the world, China is an exception. The negative impacts of the climate change have already been common on crop yields in many places of China. Prof. Lin and Dr Zhu, both, emphasized on urgency of taking measures on mitigating the risk of climate change in order to avoid potential threat in areas of freshwater resources, food production and fisheries including others.

Prof. Lin, who is also one of the coordinating lead author of the WGII Report, shared internal dynamics of the report and explained how it could be understood from a layman’s lens. He mentioned that the Working Group II report has been recently released, which includes views from 1,729 different experts and total 50,492 comments. More importantly, the report incorporates 70 countries and their status on climate change effects and their adaptation strategies. He also explained that the report has come out with three phases of climate change effects, namely, hazardous, exposed and risks. “These three stages are important to understand and strategies to adapt should be designed accordingly,” Prof Lin said looking at audience in the hall.

Highlighting the effects of climate change in the short and long run, he said that there might be some consequences which are not easy to predict now. “Scientists are trying to figure out these uncertain consequences, but it is always hard to fetch clear pictures of the future,” he said. Looking at the progress that have been made in the recent report, he said that the different parts of the world might face different sorts of problems in the long run. China, in particular, also have different coastal provinces within it, which will have to bear problems that are not quite visible now. He further said that there are places in China with high level of vulnerabilities compared to others. These places will suffer more than other relatively less affected places, mainly in regard to livelihoods.

Presenting comparative analysis about the different places, Prof Lin said that the global aggregate impacts of climate change seem to be with higher risks. “Each new study detect different results of the climate change impacts in the long run,” he said. Along with that there might be some unique vulnerabilities in the global scale, which means that the adaptation strategies might not work in the field. In those situations, there should be immediate actions taken in the ground, as Prof. Lin said.

Talking about the proposed initiatives for adaptation, Prof Lin said there should be different initiatives to cope with effects in each sector. The risks in different sectors such as freshwater resources, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystem, coastal systems and low-lying areas, marine systems and food security and food production systems have to be dealt with care. The risks in fisheries and water resources have some similar problems. The scarcity of water resources is automatically hampers fisheries. Livelihoods in many areas can be threatened when water resources and fisheries are disturbed due to climate change effects.

The consequences in the food production will lead to food insecurity. As China is fast changing in all fronts, the issue of food insecurity can be more severe in the near future. Trying to mitigate the risks is only one way of tackling the problem of food insecurity. The annual harvest of crops in China in recent years haven’t deteriorated so far. “But we can see potential threats in food productions in the long run in China as well,” Prof Lin said. However, in aggregate, the negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been common than the positive changes recently, as it seems in the assessment report, he shared.

The consequences of climate change are more striking in rural livelihoods due to insufficient access to drinking water and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity for farmers, as Prof Lin presented an excerpt from recent assessment report. Additionally, the risk of loss of marine and coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, ecosystem goods, functions and services they deliver for coastal livelihoods is also high. Similarly, flood and other kind of natural calamities are also seem to be happening in the coastal places as effects of climate change. These risks are yet to reach at the level of hazardous, but it’s likely to happen in the foreseeable future, as Prof Lin mentioned in his presentation.

Dr Zhu started making his remarks about adaptation policies that have been considered the government in China in recent years. “One of the most important task of dealing with climate change is working for knowledge dissemination,” he said while making his point clear. “Some progress has been made in this regard.”

Expressing his fear about the potential threats due to climate change, he said it would be very hard to make any conclusion about what might happen in the future. “The adaptation strategy should be well calculated and executable,” He added. “There must be a grounded strategy to tackle the consequences of climate change in the long run.”

Talking about the ecosystem, he mentioned about the role of local authorities in terms of changing the pattern of using resources in different levels.


The Q&A session touched many issues such as whether knowledge dissemination process is taking place in China or not. There are farmers in different parts of China, who are not quite familiar with potential risks of climate change. Answering the question, Dr Zhu said that there was a process slowly taking place to make farmers aware of the situation and orient them to change their behavior in using chemical fertilizer for crop production. “The central as well as local governments are putting effort on creating awareness and conducting different research in small and large scales in order to find out the ways to deal with the consequences of climate change in China,” Dr Zhu said.

The farmers are definitely one who will be suffered more due to climate change. “In this regard, the responsible authorities have made effort on increasing investment to carry out research aiming to improve technology and measure how much water has been used so far,” Dr Zhu added. The local governments in different provinces are designing their action plans as their adaptation strategies.

In the end, Dr Zhu also highlighted the issue of Green GDP (gross domestic product) in China. “The government is working on accounting GDP by taking climate change effects into consideration in the long run,” he said. However, Prof Lin said that it would be difficult to make an accurate estimate about economic impacts and cost of adaptation.

During the presentation, Prof Lin borrowed some remarks from Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (OPCC) to make precise revelations of the report. “The Working Group II report is another important step forward in our understanding of how to reduce and manage the risk of climate change. Along with the reports from Working Group I and Working Group III, it provides a conceptual map of not only the essential features of the climate change but the options for solutions,” Prof Lin said quoting Pachauri.

Report by: Bhoj Raj Poudel