Thursday, August 20, 2015

Typhoons test China's vulnerability to extreme weather

[EE News] After Typhoon Soudelor smashed into China earlier this month and as forecasters watch another powerful storm -- Typhoon Goni -- that could brush its coast this weekend, the question being posed is whether this huge country is prepared for more extreme weather events.
The short answer is: No. Researchers say that although China has made notable progress in disaster prevention, climate-resilient infrastructure is still largely missing. On top of that, how to get affected communities back to normal life remains an unsolved challenge.
Extreme weather events have been taking a toll in China in many ways. Government statistics show that typhoons, heat waves and other devastating weather have killed more than 2,000 people each year on average since the 1990s. They also cost the Chinese economy at least 200 billion yuan ($31 billion) annually in direct economic damage.
In 2015 alone, four typhoons have already made landfall in China. The latest one -- Soudelor -- caused 26 deaths, affected 770 million people and blew away goods and infrastructure worth nearly $3 billion (ClimateWire, Aug. 10).
While no country in the world could completely avoid losses in natural disasters, the risk is particularly high in China, as it lacks infrastructure that is badly needed amid a changing climate, said Yang Fuqiang, a climate expert at the Beijing office of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
One case in point was a recent typhoon in which over a thousand ships sought shelter from the storm, yet all of them capsized, Yang said. "The port failed to protect them from the fierce wind," Yang said. "Although we are very good at evacuating people, our infrastructures lack the resilience against extreme weather events." Read More