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November 11, 2009

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Weather warming in Yangtze basin

INCREASED droughts, floods and storms will hit China's Yangtze River Basin over the next few decades, the result of rising temperatures globally, according to a report released yesterday.

Climate change will trigger extreme weather conditions along the country's longest river, but strategies can be taken to control it, said the report, issued by the environmental group WWF-China. The group was originally known as the World Wildlife Fund.

In the past two decades, the temperature in the river basin area has risen steadily, leading to a spike in flooding, heat waves and droughts, the report said.

It is the largest assessment yet on the impact of global warming on the Yangtze basin area, home to 400 million people.

Data collected from 147 monitoring stations along the 1.8-million-square-kilometer area showed temperatures rose by 0.33 degree Celsius during the 1990as. Additional findings show that between 2001 and 2005, the basin's temperature rose on average another 0.71 degree Celsius.

"Extreme climate events such as storms and drought disasters will increase as climate change continues to alter our planet," said Xu Ming, the lead researcher on the report, which included expert contributions from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the China Meteorological Administration and other academic institutions.

Crops such as corn, winter wheat and rice will see clear declines, the report said. Rice crops alone could drop between 9 percent to 41 percent by the end of the century.

Natural habitat such as grasslands and wetlands have receded steadily in recent years. Rising sea levels will make coastal cities such as Shanghai more vulnerable.

Countermeasures include strengthening existing infrastructure, such as river and dike reinforcements, transport and power supply systems, the report said. Other steps include switching to hardier crop strains.

"Adaptation is a must for large developing nations" such as China, which particularly vulnerable to climate change because of its large population and relatively low economic development, said James Leape, director general of WWF-International.


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