I. Climate Change and China's Situation
The latest scientific research findings show that the average temperature of the Earth's surface has increased by 0.74 degree Celsius over the past century, from 1906 to 2005, and is expected to further rise by 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. The rise of global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is mainly caused by the increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, chiefly consisting of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, emitted as a result of human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes of land use.
China's temperature rise has basically kept pace with global warming. The latest information released by the China Meteorological Administration shows that the average temperature of the Earth's surface in China has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius over the past century, from 1908 to 2007, and that China experienced 21 warm winters from 1986 to 2007, the latter being the warmest year since the beginning of systematic meteorological observations in 1951. The national distribution of precipitation in the past half century has undergone marked changes, with increases in western and southern China and decreases in most parts of northern and northeastern China. Extreme climate phenomena, such as high temperatures, heavy precipitation and severe droughts, have increased in frequency and intensity. The number of heat waves in summer has grown, and droughts have grown worse in some areas, especially northern China; heavy precipitation has increased in southern China; and the occurrence of snow disasters has risen in western China. In China's coastal zones, the sea surface temperature and sea level have risen by 0.9 degree Celsius and 90 mm, respectively, over the past 30 years.
Scientific research predicts that climate warming trend in China will further intensify; frequency of extreme climate events is likely to wax; uneven distribution of precipitation will be more visible than before and the occurrence of heavy precipitation will increase; drought will expand in scope; and the sea level will rise faster than ever.
The basic conditions of China present the country with great challenges in addressing issues regarding climate change.
— A complex climate and a fragile eco-environment determine that China's task of adapting itself to climate change is arduous. China is characterized by a continental monsoon climate, and most parts of China have a wider range of seasonal temperature change compared with other continental areas at the same latitude. Many places in China are cold in winter and hot in summer, and high temperatures generally prevail in the country at large in summer. Precipitation is unevenly distributed in time and space, concentrating in the flood season, and annual precipitation decreases from the southeast coast to the northwest interior. China has a fragile eco-environment, with serious soil erosion and desertification and a forest coverage rate of 18.21 percent, only 62 percent of the world's average. The area of natural wetlands is comparatively small; most grasslands are highly frigid meadows and desert steppes; temperate grasslands in northern China are in danger of de-generation and desertification due to the impacts of drought and deterioration of the eco-environment. With a coastline over 18,000 km long, China is vulnerable to the adverse effects of sea level rises.
— A large population and a relatively low level of economy determine that China's development task is a formidable one. The population of the mainland of China reached 1.321 billion at the end of 2007, ac-counting for 20 percent of the world's total. China has a comparatively low level of urbanization, with an urbanization rate of 44.9 percent in 2007, lower than the world's average. The large population also brings huge employment pressure. New urban labor force entrants of 10 mil-lion and above need jobs every year; as the urbanization process moves forward, tens of millions of rural laborers transfer to the urban areas every year. Statistics from the International Monetary Fund show that the per-capita GDP (gross domestic product) of China in 2007 was US$2,461, ranking 106th, a low-to-middle place, among 181 countries and regions. China is characterized by unbalanced regional economic development and is still nagged by a large income gap between urban and rural residents. The country is still troubled by poverty, with an impoverished rural population of 14.79 million inadequately fed and clad. Those who just have enough to eat and wear and earn an unstable, low income number 30 million nationwide. Moreover, China has a relatively low level of science and technology and weak capacity of independent innovation. Developing the economy and improving people's lives are imperative tasks currently facing China.
— China's ongoing industrialization process and its coal-dominated energy mix determine that its task of controlling greenhouse gas emissions is a tough one. Historically, China's greenhouse gas emissions have been very low. According to data from relevant international re-search institutions, from 1904 to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning in China made up only 8 percent of the world's total over the same period, and cumulative emissions per capita ranked 92nd in the world. China's carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption in 2004 totaled 5.07 billion tons. As a developing country, China still has a long way to go in its industrialization, urbanization and modernization. To advance further toward its development objectives, China will strive for rational growth of energy demand, which is the basic precondition for the progress of all developing countries. However, its coal-dominated energy mix cannot be substantially changed in the near future, thus making the control of greenhouse gas emissions rather difficult.