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As Severe Storms Overwhelm China’s Infrastructure, Experts Warn That Climate Change Will Make The Problem Worse

By Climate Guest Contributor

"As Severe Storms Overwhelm China’s Infrastructure, Experts Warn That Climate Change Will Make The Problem Worse"

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On July 21st, the heaviest rainstorm to strike Beijing, China in over 60 years dumped an average of more than 7 inches of rain across the city, causing floods and leading to the deaths of more than 70 people. One suburb, Fangshan, received more than 18 inches of rain from the storm.

The storm triggered devastating mudslides and have left thousands displaced or homeless.

According to Wu Zhenghua, a researcher at the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, rainstorms like this one will become more and more common in the future, thanks to a warming planet:

“Global warming has increased the temperature in the middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in more water-vapor exchange and heat exchange with low-latitude regions, and thus bringing more frequent heavy precipitation.”

Storms like the recent Beijing event, though less severe, are not uncommon in southern regions. But they rarely ever venture as far north as Beijing. However, Wu claimed, there is statistical evidence that shows major storms have become more frequent in the north since 2008.

China is facing the same trends seen in the United States. A recent report from the Environment America Research and Policy Center entitled “When It Rains, It Pours,” looked at the increased severity and frequency of major precipitation events. The study found that extreme storms are occurring 30 percent more frequently in the U.S. than they were in 1948 and that major downpours are producing 10 percent more rain each year.

More intense rainstorms could be a major issue for China, which has problems with urban drainage systems. In China, storm drains are organized by location, with the most important sites and most traveled roads prioritized, thereby opening the possibility of flooding elsewhere. The drains were also built to handle one-in-five year storms; however, as the data suggests, storms of that magnitude may soon become the new normal.

The rain in the most recent storm fell at a staggering rate, almost five inches an hour in Beijing, about four and a half inches an hour in Hong Kong, and a little over four inches an hour in a province in central China — overwhelming the out-of-date and poorly-designed drainage and sewer systems that are capable of handling water levels less than a third of what was experienced.

According to Fang Chuanglin, an urban planner with the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research:

“The problems with the drainage systems include improper arrangement of pipelines and outdated design. Most pipes are designed for the worst rainstorm in three or five years, some can only cope with the heaviest rain once a year,”

Over the last two years, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou have “announced multibillion-yuan projects to maintain and upgrade drainage systems,” but more must be done. As storms continue to become more intense and more frequent, floods will continue to be a major for infrastructure in China’s metropolitan centers.

– Max Frankel

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11 Responses to As Severe Storms Overwhelm China’s Infrastructure, Experts Warn That Climate Change Will Make The Problem Worse

  1. Paul Magnus says:

    This is the wrong framing…

    Climate Change, induced by human caused GW, is driving sever storms, overwhelming Chinese infrastructure.

    BTW its happening everywhere, including developed nations – the US, UK, Auz, etc on every continent right now.

    With the current intensity, frequency and area coverage of Xtreme weather events, civilization can not even now cope with the current onslaught and is starting to collapse.

    So I dont know why everyone keeps talking about 2C and 450pp.

    Then theres the inevitable unstoppable sea level rise to come in the next 40-80yrs….

  2. Joe Peschi says:

    Well, climate change may be real, unfortunately we do not currently poses a global mechanism to deal with this global problem. Unfortunately environmentalists advoacting inefective local action is keeping the conversation stuck, and we are unable to look for real solutions.
    http://zoltansustainableecon.blogspot.com/2012/07/climate-change-frozen-global-village.html

    • Paul Klinkman says:

      I assume that, at the minimum, climate change is going to get worse, per the scientific consensus. Personally I’m on or above the high end of that consensus.

      The prospect of massive global famines, the world’s forests turning into megafires and the world’s fisheries turning into jellyfish farms is hardly acceptable, and as a global society it’s in our best interest to take any economically easy bite out of the problem.

      One obvious goal is to make any solar energy solution cheaper than any fossil fuel solution. Part or all of the 2500 gigatons of proven reserves then stays in the ground.

      I believe in the fossil fuel industry dying by a thousand paper cuts. Every time solar hot water panels (or any equivalents) get 5% cheaper, that’s a little cut. If a cheap, two minute idea could have this much power, I’ll take at least 1000 of them, please.

      One key to getting 1000 cheap ideas is making it financially feasible for solar inventors to feed their families. Right now they usually get fed pie in the sky, and the landlord doesn’t take that kind of currency. If meritorious improvements are rewarded with a relatively small amount of cold hard cash, we would get more sharp inventors and we might win the entire ball game.

      Next, we want to be absolutely sure that meritorious improvements get a fair shot at the marketplace. Right now, a good solar idea is nothing but a joke if it isn’t implemented.

      All of this is heresy to oil company owners and to free marketeers alike. So what, if it works like a dream?

  3. Paul Klinkman says:

    The Netherlands designs its sea defenses for a 1 in every 10,000 year storm. China designs for a 1 in every 5 year storm. Foresight (or an amazing lack of foresight) makes a huge difference in lives saved, in factories, stores and homes flooded, in everything ruined by toxic mold.

    We could insert a paragraph about Katrina and New Orleans defenses here. For that matter we could insert something about much of New York City will be uninhabitable with a 30 foot sea rise, because its electrical system and subways will be flooded with sea water and the salt will corrode the electric mains for months after the disaster. Therefore, New York City should be considered barely habitable right now. No intelligent insurance company and no bank should touch the NYC dead zone because it’s not a paying proposition.

    Climate change is a sneaky thing.

  4. Arthur Mitchell says:

    The sheer scale of the problem is so huge, it’s hard to know how to best begin because any plan or design can either be too idealistic and unachievable, or in short time fall apart for lack of stability of all the parts to hold it together.
    One plan, although idealistic, is technically simple, and would be effective in reducing vast amounts of greenhouse gasses. The worlds military powers need to very soon reduce their combined planetary footprint by some agreed upon size,and global warming will slow enough that we can begin to design other technical and practical alternatives to our survival. How do military powers, other than psychological, provide benefits to mankind; yet on the scale of destruction of our support systems, the military machines are part of the doomsday scenario we are witnessing. It might give us just enough time to avoid the tipping balance we so rightfully fear.

    • Greatgrandma Kat says:

      There are plans that would reduce CO2 and improve life across the planet.But the losers are the biggest polluters with really big money at stake. What they don’t realise is that we will be forced to change in the end anyway. It would be to everyones advantage to do it ourselves. It’s really true “You can’t eat money”. And time to change is in very short supply.

  5. These many proposals make sense and we should do all of them. We need to be aware that the planet is projected (by the World Business Council) to have 9 billion people by 2050 and the vast majority will be in cities. As new cities are being built, we need to plan them holistically, introducing not only better sewage and more efficient buildings but better integration with agriculture and with nature’s systems, including all five kindoms of life, and use all five kinds of human intelligence: Emotional, artistic, academic, Eco-literacy and Capacity to Implement. We must recognize that all of these must be balanced, each contributing to a thriving planet and thriving communities. We should learn from the successes and mistakes of the many experiments around the world. This will ensure optimal progress and mutual benefit — including healthy economics.