China’s by far the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases. In fact, China emits more global warming pollutants than the next two biggest polluters combined—the U.S. and India. And now China’s feeling the heat of global warming according to a new study done by Chinese and Canadian scientists, the first to link daily hot and cold temperatures to local atmospheric pollution.
Those temperature extremes, which typically occur in late afternoon (for the warmest) and just before dawn (the coldest time of day) are what effect people, plants, and animals most. If it’s hotter during the afternoon, people suffer from the heat, whereas if nights are warmer then people don’t have an chance to recover from a sweltering day.
The researchers found that because of local greenhouse gas conditions, daytime high temperatures have increased 1.7 degrees F in the 46 years leading to 2007. Worse is that maximum night temperatures have also increased 3 degrees F during the same period. This is not a complete surprise because monthly measurements from different parts of the world show that average minimum temperatures (in both winter and summer) have increased faster than have daytime maximums over the last decades.
Well-known is that China’s massive greenhouse gas emissions result from the country’s widespread use of coal to produce the energy powering its industry and cities. Contrasted with the United States, where coal powers only 20% of power plants, in China 70% of its energy comes from coal-burning power plants.