May 8, 2009
Greenhouse gas tends to affect higher altitudes, but Tibet, given its underdeveloped industries, produces little greenhouse gas itself, China’s official Xinhua news agency May 6 cited Zheng Guoguang, chief of China Meteorological Administration (CMA), as saying. He had refused to commit the political error of commenting on the environmentally catastrophic development and socio-economic polices being pursued by the Chinese government there. However, he had taken care to warn, speaking to more than 500 officials at a meeting in Lhasa on climate change, that in the worst case, such warming could cause permafrost to melt and threaten the plateau railway linking Tibet with the neighboring Qinghai Province.
According to Zheng, "Tibet is the biggest victim of global warming because it has almost no industry to emit greenhouse gases and therefore has a very minor impact on global warming, however, global warming has the greatest impact on Tibet." He had noted that from 1961 to 2008, the average temperature in the TAR had increased by approximately 0.32 degree Centigrade per 10 years, which is clearly higher than both China's temperature increase rate of 0.05–0.08 and the average global increase rate.
"If the warming continues, millions of people in western China would face floods in the short term and drought in the long run," Zheng was further reported to have warned.
Xinhua said a report by Tibet's regional meteorological bureau earlier this year also warned the permafrost that lies on the path of the rail link had been shrinking by 4.5 centimeters to 24.9 cm every decade since the 1960s. The report was reported to have quoted figures from four observatories along the route, saying the fastest shrinkage was reported in Amdo County, which has 346 kilometers of the railway.
Still, the report cited experts as believing that at the current thawing speed, the railway would remain safe for another four decades, with Beijing having spent more than 1 billion yuan (US $143 million) in the past 20 years to reinforce the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, also plagued by retreating permafrost.
"Tibet needs to tackle, and adapt to, the persisting climate change," Zheng was reported to have urged, advising the government there to speed up construction of hydropower stations and exploitation of renewable energy.
From all this, it emerges as obvious that China’s development model for Tibet, entailing environmentally destructive industrial, mining and infrastructure development at a dizzying pace and massive influx of Chinese immigration can only worsen the situation considerably.
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