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China weather chaos a sign of things to come

What Else but Climate Change? Chinese Government Scientists

BEIJING, Jan 29, 2008 (AFP) -
Don't tell the thousands of Chinese stuck at railway stations or airports, but the chaos caused by a vicious cold spell afflicting much of China could be just a taste of things to come, experts say.

The inclement weather and ensuing problems merely highlight the country's increasing vulnerability to the extreme weather swings characteristic of global climate change, experts say, and is likely to be repeated in future years.

Vast areas of central and southern China have experienced the most severe winter in half a century in the past few days, coming on the heels of one of the warmest winters on record last year.

With climate change gaining pace and the planet generally warming up, the social, economic and political impact on China will rise along with the mercury, experts said.

"As a developing country where the vast majority live in poor circumstances, China is unusually vulnerable to this," said Paul Harris, a professor at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, who studies the social impact of climate change.

"But what we've clearly seen this week is the inability of the government to cope with such extreme events."

There is no way to prove climate change is to blame for the extreme cold snap, but some Chinese government scientists see no other explanation for the wild temperature swings, particularly in the areas that have become accustomed recently to mild winters.

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