Even in Asia, the climate is going crazy

Even in Asia, the climate is going crazy

Even in Asia

The climate crisis is increasingly evident, wherever you want to turn your gaze. In recent weeks, East Asia has experienced extreme weather conditions, unfortunately breaking several records. From scorching temperatures to violent rain showers, the climate has now become a tangible problem for the population and the socio-economic consequences are starting to be felt.

For many countries, the heatwave at the end of June was merciless, with very serious consequences for the health of the population. In South Korea, hospitalizations for heatstroke were double compared to last year, while in Japan they were about four times as many. However, what has emerged in recent days is that the most pressing problem in Asian capitals is another, that is the energy crisis due to record temperatures.

Blackout risk for Japan Tokyo in particular is in an absolutely anomalous condition and is going through a moment of particular difficulty. Monday 4th July was the ninth day in a row when temperatures exceeded 35 ° C, considered the threshold beyond which temperatures are considered "extreme heat". This is the worst climate crisis since 1875, when the meteorological records began in the Japanese capital: never, in fact, since that date had temperatures so high been recorded so early in June. The situation is also serious outside Tokyo and, according to reports from the Meteorological Agency of Japan, 35 of the 47 prefectures in which the country is divided recorded last month the highest temperatures in June ever recorded.

Although temperatures are expected to drop, the combination of high pressures behind the extreme heat of these days is a typical July or August phenomenon. The agency expects temperatures to continue to rise between July and September, in what unfortunately promises to be a record summer for Japan. Faced with these extreme climatic manifestations, millions of people have relied on air conditioning to find some relief. However, the increase in electricity demand has caused new strong pressure on the Japanese energy market, which is already in serious difficulty.

In recent years, the supply of electricity has dropped considerably for several reasons: the closure of nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster, the closure of many old power plants after the liberalization of the sector in 2016, and the temporary closure of some production plants in March following a strong earthquake. The increase in demand in recent days has brought the system close to the critical threshold of 3% of the energy supply capacity not yet used, beyond which blackouts can occur.

For four days in a row, the capital's authorities have asked citizens and businesses to make an effort to save on electricity, and a national warning has been in place since July 1 asking the country to moderate the consumption of energy for the next three months. "Due to the record temperatures, electricity demand in June was almost equal to that of the summer peaks," said the ministry of economy, which in recent months has hastened to put the old plants back into operation to increase capacity. productive for the summer. In the coming months, forecasts say that the demand for electricity in the coming months could saturate 96.9% of the supply capacity, dangerously approaching the critical threshold.

China chooses coal China too a similar phenomenon has occurred in the past few weeks. In the provinces north of the Blue River of Henan and Shandong, the third and second most populous in China, respectively, they have experienced drought-like conditions and some cities have launched red alert for temperatures. In Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, it was already 40 ° C after mid-June.

Electricity demand has reached record levels in these provinces and many other provinces. Henan and Shandong have set and broken their electricity record several times in a matter of days. Jiangsu crossed the 100 gigawatt mark 19 days earlier than 2021. To avoid the risk of blackouts as occurred last autumn, the Chinese authorities have ordered that a considerable increase in coal production and have set a maximum price, in such a way as to allow sufficient and cheap quantities of energy resources for all electricity producers. To date, 60% of electricity production in China depends on coal.

Seoul gets prepared In South Korea, on the other hand, the situation is a bit better from the point of view of energy needs. In recent days, the remaining supply capacity has dropped to only 9.5% and for the peak in August the percentage should not go below 5%. Nonetheless, this abundance of electricity supply has to deal with the record temperatures that have also been recorded in the peninsula. On Saturday, public authorities launched the heat alert, 18 days earlier than last year, and calls for caution were extended yesterday when Seoul and Daegu recorded temperatures above 35 ° C. In the capital, moreover, last week the first tropical night with temperatures never below 25 ° C was recorded: it is the first time that the phenomenon occurs in June.

Seoul is trying not to be caught unprepared by the energy challenge of changes climatic. Under the direction of the new president Yoon Suk-yeol, the ministry of industry and energy has decided to overturn the policy of the previous government and restore momentum to nuclear energy. Thus, while coal plants are gradually being decommissioned, nuclear power plants are regaining their share in South Korea's energy mix. Seoul has moved decisively on this front also thanks to the popular mandate granted to the new conservative president, who campaigned for the election. precisely on the reopening of nuclear power plants. What Yoon doing is much more unlikely to happen in Japan, where the topic of nuclear energy remains highly controversial despite the fact that public opinion has repositioned itself slightly in favor in recent months with the onset of the energy crisis.

The change climate threatens Asia The energy challenge caused by the heat wave is just one of many facing the Asian continent, which is also a victim of climate change. Agriculture is equally threatened by adverse weather events: in Henan the heat is seriously threatening crops, while in Guangdong, the southern most populous province of China, torrential rains like no one had seen for at least fifty years have caused losses for hundreds millions of dollars to farms. Millions of Chinese citizens have been affected by the natural disaster.

While the memory of 2020 is still vivid in Korea, when three summer typhoons in rapid succession destroyed part of the country's agricultural production, there are fears in Japan that the he arrival of violent rains can cause serious hydrogeological disasters such as the one that plagued the country last year. A possibility that experts have not ruled out despite the recent rainy season being one of the shortest ever recorded in the country. East Asia is a very vulnerable region to climate change and even though the governments of Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul have enough resources to try to stem the current crisis, the same cannot be said for many of their neighbors. There is much more at stake than just energy security.

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