Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

China’s Breadbasket Could Suffer the Worst of Climate Change’s Deadly Heat Waves

Climate
China’s Breadbasket Could Suffer the Worst of Climate Change’s Deadly Heat Waves

Deadly heat waves are breaking records and making headlines around the world this summer, but they have nothing on the heat waves that the North China Plain is likely to see in the future if we don't act now to combat climate change.


A study published in Nature Communications Tuesday found that if we do nothing to curb emissions, China's most populous and agriculturally important region could see heat waves deadly even for healthy people by 2100.

"China is currently the largest contributor to the emissions of greenhouse gases, with potentially serious implications to its own population: Continuation of the current pattern of global emissions may limit habitability of the most populous region of the most populous country on Earth," study authors Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Suchul Kang of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology wrote.

The researchers looked at something called wet bulb temperature, which is measured by wrapping a wet cloth around the bulb of a thermometer, according to MIT.

As the water evaporates, the bulb is cooled, but at 100 percent humidity, no evaporation is possible and the cloth has no impact on the thermometer's read.

The measure is important for assessing the joint impact of heat and humidity on health, since humans can only cool themselves through sweat and cannot do so if it is both too hot and too humid.

At a wet bulb temperature of 35 degrees Celsius, research suggests that even healthy humans cannot survive outside for more than six hours. The researchers found that "wet bulb" days surpassing 35 degrees would become more common in the North China Plain from 2070 to 2100 if no action is taken to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

"This spot is just going to be the hottest spot for deadly heat waves in the future, especially under climate change," Eltahir said in an MIT release.

This is a problem because the North China Plain is the country's most important growing region, and many of its inhabitants are farmers with no choice but to work outdoors, The Guardian reported.

Eltahir and Kang have done research into the potential for climate change to lead to similarly deadly heat waves in the Persian Gulf and in Southeast Asia. Those studies also predicted an increase in these events in some places, but none of their previous research has turned up potential impacts this dire.

The most extreme temperatures in the Persian Gulf region were also expected to occur over the water, not over population centers. This is not the case for China.

"This is where people live," Eltahir said in the MIT release.

The research also showed that irrigation in the region made the problem worse, adding half a degree of Celsius of warming to the area because it increased humidity. Water vapor can also act as a greenhouse gas.

"Irrigation exacerbates the impact of climate change," Eltahir said in the release.

Presidential nominee Joe Biden has not taken a stance on gas exports, including liquefied natural gas. Ken Hodge / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Simon Montlake

For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.

All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system. Stevens Fremont / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Grayson Jaggers

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A graphic shows how Rhoel Dinglasan's smartphone-based saliva test works. University of Florida

As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.

Read More Show Less
A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less
A plastic bag caught in a tree in New Jersey's Palisades Park. James Leynse / Stone / Getty Images

New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch