China’s Climate Change Devastation

While it sounds like a post-apocalyptic tale worthy of a Halloween horror movie marathon – think “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the devastation being faced in China by climate change is real, and growing.

The world’s most populous nation is the canary in the global warming coal mine. Because of decades of rapid, massive industrialization and few controls on air quality or vehicle and factory emissions, tens of millions of its citizens are having their lives cut short and their communities displaced or destroyed.

World’s Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitter

And we all eventually pay for China’s climate sins. Air pollution from China travels east to Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea and across the Pacific to the U.S. west coast. The country’s massive fossil fuel use has made it the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

In several new stories, The New York Times is detailing how tens of thousands of Chinese have already been displaced in recent years by growing desertification caused by the earth’s warming. They are the first of what experts say will be millions of climate change refugees in the United States and around the world over the coming decades.

“Nearly 20 percent of China is desert, and drought across the northern region is getting worse,” the Times reports. “One recent estimate said China had 21,000 square miles more desert than what existed in 1975 — about the size of Croatia.” Three different deserts are now merging in China “to form a vast sea of sand that could become uninhabitable.”

Temperatures Rising, Rainfall Falling

Across regions of China, the average temperature has risen by 2.1 degrees Celsius, or 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit, in the last 50 years. Half of that increase has occurred since 2001. Annual rainfall, meanwhile, has dropped about 5.7 millimeters, or about a quarter inch, every decade since the 1960s.

The plight of these displaced refugees in China and elsewhere is already a national security issue for the United States. CIA Director John Brennan has repeatedly said that climate change is a major factor in the collapse of governments and rise of radical terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Yemen and Libya.

Climate Security Is National Security

“Mankind’s relationship with the natural world is aggravating these problems and is a potential source of crisis itself,” Brennan said during a speech in 2015.  “Last year was the warmest on record, and this year is on track to be even warmer.

“When CIA analysts look for deeper causes of this rising instability, they find nationalistic, sectarian, and technological factors that are eroding the structure of the international system,” Brennan. “They also see socioeconomic trends, the impact of climate change, and other elements that are cause for concern.”