Editorial:New Climate Norm Threatens Food Security

【明報專訊】Floods in southern China and droughts in the north are disasters common on the mainland in summer. This year, however, has seen particularly serious situations. Incessant heavy rains in many southern regions have caused flooding and landslides in places such as Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi, causing dozens of casualties and property losses. In some northern regions, persistent heat waves and severe drought are impacting grain sowing for the autumn yield, and threatening this year's grain harvest.

This year has seen particularly heavy rainfall in South China. The ''dragon boat rainfall'' season in Guangdong occurred in April, which was earlier than usual. Within a month, the region received three months' worth of rainfall in a usual flood season. As of last Monday (17 June), five people had died and 15 had gone missing due to flash floods and landslides in many places in Meizhou City, eastern Guangdong. The neighbouring city of Longyan in Fujian Province was also hit by torrential rains, and many towns suffered landslides. Over 500,000 people have been affected, with four dead and two missing.

Meanwhile, large areas of Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Shanxi and other provinces in North China experienced high temperatures of over 40℃ this month. The rainfall since May in Henan has been slashed by over 70% from the normal average; Shandong as a whole only had 1.3mm of rainfall on average in early June. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has launched a Level-3 agricultural drought emergency response in the four aforementioned provinces.

The high concern is because of the fact that these locations are on the North China Plain, an important area of food supply on the mainland run through by the Yellow, Huai and Hai Rivers. As the second largest crop-producing province of the country, Henan grows one-fourth of the mainland's wheat, and is a major source of China's rice, maize and soya beans. Given the drought occurred at the key time for summer sowing, combined with the extreme heat of over 40℃ that arrived earlier than in previous years, there are worries that it will put the kibosh on good yields, after nine years of bountiful harvests on the mainland. Therefore, the central and local governments are quick to act in securing summer sowing by coordinating water redirection.

Similar extreme weather disasters are ubiquitous around the world. In India, historical records for highest temperatures have been set yet again this year, with Delhi registering 52.9℃ in the latest record. As of last Monday, this round of hot weather had killed more than 200 people. In Brazil, the state of Rio Grande do Sul has suffered the worst torrential rains, mudslides and floods in history. Nearly a thousand casualties have been recorded, and more than 650,000 people displaced.

The culprit of all these is global warming. UN experts have pointed out that extreme weather is disrupting the agricultural system and creating a complex challenge to economic stability. In fact, flooding in Brazil this year has reduced soya bean production in Rio Grande do Sul by about 10% to 15% this season, driving up Brazil's national inflation in May. In the African country of Ghana, drought, high temperatures, pests and diseases have caused a sharp drop of 40% in cocoa bean production. High temperatures and a lack of rain have also caused a reduction in durian production in Thailand, widespread deaths of pepper trees in Cambodia, a 30% decrease in coffee bean production in Vietnam...

It is worth noting that electric vehicles, a symbolic product of the green and low-carbon transformation of energy, have been levied tariffs by Europe and the US if they are Chinese-made. This is not only a typical case of trade protectionism, but also a retrograde step in environmental protection that undermines cooperation on the global response to climate change.

明報社評 2024.06.24:氣候反常成新常態 南澇北旱糧產堪憂





環顧全球,類似的極端天氣災害幾乎無處不在,印度的歷史最高溫度紀錄今年再度刷新,德里地區最新紀錄為52.9℃,截至上周一,今輪高溫天氣已致200多人死亡;在巴西,南里奧格蘭德州(Rio Grande do Sul)遭遇有史以來最嚴重的暴雨、泥石流、洪水災害,死傷人數近千,逾65萬人流離失所。



■/ Glossary 生字 /

incessant/ɪnˈsesnt/:(usually disapproving) never stopping

put the kibosh on (sth):cause plans or activities to fail or prevent them from continuing

retrograde /ˈretrəɡreɪd/:(of an action) making a situation worse or returning to how sth was in the past

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