China’s sea level last year ‘highest on record’
China’s coastal sea levels were the “highest on record” in 2021 due to “rising water temperatures and the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps”, Reuters
reported. Last year, China’s coastal sea levels were 84mm higher than the “average over the period from 1993 to 2011”, the newswire noted. China Science Daily
covered the same bulletin. The newspaper said that, according to the bulletin, China’s coastal sea levels follow a “fluctuating upward trend” in general and have been at their highest in the most recent 10 years, compared with the past four decades.
: The annual bulletin
was published by the National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center – a branch of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources – on 7 May. It explained the changes of China’s coastal sea levels over the past year, analysed its relationship with climate change and proposed responses and adaptation measures.
WHEN: From 1980 to 2021, China’s coastal sea levels rose at an average rate of 3.4mm per year from 1980 to 2021, more than the global average over the same period, according to the bulletin. Moreover, in the next 30 years, China’s coastal sea levels are projected to rise a further 68-170mm, the document said. It called for the “enhancement” of coastal defence and the “comprehensive improvement” of human beings’ adaptive capabilities for rising sea levels.
The bulletin attributed the causes of rising sea levels
to the various consequences of global warming, especially the swelling and rising of temperatures of seawater and the melting of on-land glaciers and polar icecaps. It noted that, in addition to global warming, China’s coastal sea levels are also “closely related” to other factors, such as local land subsidence.
The report came as several coastal regions in southern China experienced what was described as the “heaviest” rainfall yet this year since the start of the rainy season. CCTV
, the state broadcaster, said on 12 May that torrential rain had struck Guangxi, Guangdong and Fujian, causing roads to be inundated, trains to be suspended and schools to be closed. Xinhua
, the state news agency, reported on 11 May that more than 27,000 residents of Guangxi had been “affected” by “extensive heavy” rains, which had triggered flooding in 22 counties and “affected” 2,392 hectares of crops. Guangdong recorded its “heaviest rainfall in May since 2003”, according to the South China Morning Post
. China’s National Climate Center forecast that this year, “flooding in the north and south of the country could be as bad as last summer when torrential rain killed hundreds”, Bloomberg
said on Tuesday.
The news that China’s sea levels reached “their highest level on record” last year shows the “stark threat” China is facing from climate change, said Patrick Verkooijen
, chief executive officer of the Global Center on Adaptation
, an international organisation working as a “solutions broker” for adaptation action. Verkooijen told Carbon Brief that China must adapt to growing climatic impacts – and fast – or the lives and livelihoods of its people will be “severely impacted”. He added: “Climate change is happening right now and China is in the eye of the storm.”
ADAPTATION: Human beings “must accelerate adaptation action to deal with our new climate reality”, particularly with rising sea levels, Verkooijen said, adding that his organisation is “working closely” with the Chinese government to draw up adaptation plans for the country for the coming decades. He said: “China has already recognised that it has to adapt to build resilience. China has also had the foresight to know that it cannot do it alone.”
Verkooijen noted that, even though Shanghai – China’s financial hub situated on the eastern coast – has built 520 kilometres of protective seawall to reduce rising sea exposure, half of the city is “still at risk” of being flooded by 2100 due to the impact of land subsidence. He stressed that, as a result, mankind must “re-imagine the way we construct our cities and transform them from concrete jungles that have a concerning environmental toll to cities that let water in”. China – together with the Netherlands where Verkooijen’s organisation is headquartered – are “already world leaders” in implementing solutions such as the “sponge cities”, which are built with infrastructure designed to create permeable water systems to prevent flooding and replenish water supplies, according to Verkooijen. (One of China’s “sponge cities”, Zhengzhou
, however, was struck by deadly flooding
triggered by heavy rainfall last July, leading to debate
over the urban design model.)
Chinese leaders say power cuts ‘must not occur’
China’s leadership emphasised that power cuts “must not occur” in the country at a high-level meeting last week. The instruction was issued by the State Council, China’s top administrative agency, at a meeting chaired by China’s premier Li Keqiang on 11 May, reported Xinhua
, the state news agency. The State Council announced a series of measures to help coal power companies deal with financial difficulties and generate “more electricity” to ensure the “normal” supply of energy, Xinhua said. The authority also ordered the country to release “advanced coal production capacity” in a “safe and orderly manner”.
Four days after the State Council meeting, an article carrying the byline of Xi Jinping, China’s president, in Qiushi
– a magazine affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party – delivered a similar order. In the 4,550-character article – which was part of a speech made by Xi last December – Xi said that he had instructed his top officials that “major incidents, such as large-scale ‘power outages’ must not be allowed to happen again”. The order was mentioned in a section of the article that called on the country to “correctly understand” and “grasp” the carbon-peaking and carbon neutrality pledges. Xi repeated several directions in the section, such as “establishing [new rules] before breaking [old ones]” and making plans in an “overall and coordinated manner”. (Carbon Brief has explained
these orders.) He also repeated that China must achieve carbon peaking based on the “national reality” that coal is its “main
” energy source.
The no-power-cuts instructions came after Bloomberg
reported that Shanxi – China’s largest coal-producing region – had been instructed to guarantee thermal coal supplies to some coastal industrial hubs that were “threatened by power shortages”. The outlet said that “the move is designed to avoid any repeat of the power crunch
that struck in the fall”. Around two dozen Chinese provinces were struck with serious power shortages
late last year, with factories having to halt operation and residents facing blackouts. The power shortages led the Chinese leadership to boost coal production and increase coal supply. (Read Carbon Brief’s analyses of last year’s power shortages
and the ongoing “coal push
The energy authorities of “many” regions – including Guangdong, Yunnan, Hebei, Mengdong, Mengxi and Guizhou – have taken “precautionary measures” and issued notices to ensure that electricity would be consumed in an “orderly” manner in case of power shortages during summer, China Energy News
reported on 12 May. The state-run industry newspaper said that, according to “various industry insiders”, electricity supply and demand during the peak demand season in summer would be “largely balanced”, but the supply in “some areas” during the peak hours would be “tight”. Prof Chen Haoyong – director of the Institute of Power Economics and Electricity Markets at South China University of Technology – told the outlet that the electricity demand of coastal manufacturing hubs had started to decline following a post-pandemic surge, but the inland provinces were likely to see a “tight” electricity supply this year.
China’s premier Li Keqiang gave extra instructions on how to release “advanced coal production capacity” in a separate State Council meeting in April, Xinhua
reported. Li said that production restrictions should be lifted “when necessary” and the construction of those “mature” projects aimed at increasing production capacity should be started in an “accelerated” manner, according to the report. Li also instructed the nation to “plan ahead and speed up the development of new power-generating projects”. (According to the context of Li’s speech, “power-generating projects” here should mean coal power projects specifically.)
The Chinese government has taken a series of steps to ensure coal supply and boost the development of the coal industry in general. For example, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s state economic planner, released a notice
on 7 May to clarify the definition of “price gouging” by operators in the coal industry. (High coal prices were one of the causes of last year’s power shortages.) The document was followed by statements by Meng Wei, the NDRC’s spokesperson. Meng said
on Tuesday that the NDRC would “closely monitor” the changes of coal prices and summon relevant parties for talks “immediately” when coal prices are “outside a reasonable range”. Elsewhere, the NDRC released a set of industrial standards
for the “clean and efficient” use of coal on 10 May. The document called on the nation to promote the “clean and efficient utilisation of coal” and facilitate the “transition and upgrade” of coal consumption.