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Global Warming Accelerates China's Sea Level Rise

Large sections of Chinese coastal regions gradually disappear under rising sea levels because of global warming, severely impairing the country's social and economic progress.

According to the latest observations from domestic tide stations, the sea level along China's coastline has maintained a rapidly rising speed over the past five decades. The elevation even accelerated in recent years with an annual increase of 2.6 millimeters (0.1 inch).

Meteorologists predict that in the next 30 years, the sea level will continue to rise by one to 16 centimeters (6.304 inches). By 2050, it will be six to 26 centimeters (10.244 inches) higher. The increase will probably reach 30 (11.82 inches) to 70 centimeters (27.58 inches) by the end of the 21st century.

Ding Yihui, a climate expert with the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), said, "With comparatively-advanced social, economic and cultural developments, China's off-shore regions will suffer great losses if the sea level doesn't cease rising."

Ding also attributed a series of potential ecological problems, such as the deterioration of shoals and marshes and the salinization of the groundwater-bearing layers, to the sea level increase.

"It will ruin the ecological and environmental balance along the coastal areas."

China's long coastline is the base for about 70 percent of the large cities, over a half of the domestic population and nearly 60 percent of the national economy.

Du Bilan, a researcher with the National Bureau of Oceanography (NBO), said that the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and Yellow River Delta -- regions located along the coast with the country's most developed economies -- may all in part be flooded if the sea level kept rising at the current speed.

Statistics from the simulation experiments show that only 65 centimeters (25.61 inches) more over the highest historical tide level will lead to a submergence of about 3,400 square kilometers (840,140 acres) in the Pearl River Delta, causing an economic loss of 180.8 billion yuan (about US$21.9 billion).

CMA director Qin Dahe said that not only China, but the whole world is threatened by rising sea levels. In the next 100 years, the average global temperature will rise by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius, which will result in a sea level rise ranging from nine to 88 centimeters (34.672 inches). It is predicted that the consequent annual economic loss will amount to over US$300 billion.

Facing the growing menace of the sea level rise, meteorologists advise to take more scientific and active preventive measures, including strengthening the construction of protection embankments, enhancing the design criteria of littoral projects as well as strictly limiting groundwater exploitation.

(Xinhua News Agency April 12, 2002)

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