China’s autumn harvest is under “severe threat” due to high temperatures and drought, authorities have warned, calling for measures to protect crops in the country’s hottest summer yet.

The world’s second-largest economy has been hit by record temperatures, flash floods and droughts this summer – phenomena that scientists warn are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

The Ministry of Agriculture said southern China has experienced its longest period of high temperatures and rare rains since records began more than 60 years ago.

On Tuesday, four government departments issued a notice calling for “every unit of water” to be conserved to protect crops.

“The rapid development of drought, combined with high temperatures and heat, has caused a serious threat to the production of autumn crops,” the statement said.

China produces more than 95 percent of the rice, wheat and corn it consumes, but a reduced crop could mean increased demand for imports in the world’s most populous country – putting additional pressure on global supplies already strained by the conflict in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: The heat is intense in China

Temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) led to blackouts in many Chinese provinces as cities grapple with a surge in power demand, caused in part by people turning on air conditioning to cope with the heat. .

The megacities of Shanghai and Chongqing switched off their outdoor decorative lighting, while authorities in Sichuan province imposed industrial blackouts after water levels dropped at key hydroelectric power plants.

More than 1,500 people were evacuated from the area around Chongqing on Monday after hot and dry conditions sparked numerous forest fires, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The searing heat is also drying up the critical Yangtze River, with water flow in its main stem about 50 percent lower than the average over the past five years, state media China News Service reported last week.

“Worst heat wave in history”

The National Weather Service renewed its drought and heat warnings on Tuesday, urging governments in 11 provinces to step up their emergency response.

Authorities have already resorted to cloud seeding – a method of inducing rainfall – in some parts of the country.

This month, state broadcaster CCTV released footage showing weather officials firing catalyst rockets into the sky and firefighters delivering water to farmers in need.

“This is the worst heatwave on record,” said climate and energy expert Liu Junyan of Greenpeace East Asia. AFP.

“Climate science shows that extreme heat is getting worse,” she said.

“So next year is more likely to be record hot.”

This year’s extreme weather conditions are raising public awareness of climate change in China, and state-run media are “now coming to cover climate impacts” with unprecedented urgency, Liu said.

Government climate expert Zhou Bing warned over the weekend of mass population displacement caused by climate change, calling the extreme weather nature’s “revenge” on humanity.

China experienced three more episodes of extreme heat this century – in 2003, 2013, 2017.

The gap between heat waves is “shrinking significantly,” Zhou said.

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