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China’s extreme weather warnings avoid talk of climate change

China’s extreme weather warnings avoid talk of climate change

As unprecedented heatwaves sweep across large parts of the Northern Hemisphere, China is telling its people to brace for another summer of dangerous floods and droughts.

China’s National Climate Center this month predicted "generally poor weather conditions” for the rest of the summer and warned that the country will face more extreme weather events than usual.

In some areas, precipitation is estimated to be 20% to 50% higher than normal. Some major rivers, including the Yellow River that runs through nine provinces, are set to cause serious flooding. In a separate report, the agency said average temperatures for the first half of the year were the highest since 1961 and about 1.2 degrees Celsius above normal levels.

Not once did the center mention the phrase "climate change.” The ominous forecasts didn’t get a lot of attention on social media, either. When local news organizations reported on power shortages caused partly by hotter-than-expected weather in the manufacturing hub of Guangdong, there was no discussion of how a warming planet could play a role in the more unpredictable weather that caused factories to shut down for days.

"As someone working at China’s top meteorological department, we’re not allowed to overstress the danger of climate change, which would be irresponsible and cause unnecessary fears,” said a National Climate Center researcher who requested anonymity to discuss private details about the issue. "Whatever we write and publish has to be backed by data, but China started on climate research very late.”

The caution is at odds with President Xi Jinping’s push to establish China as a global leader on climate change, encapsulated in his pledge to zero out the world’s largest carbon emissions by 2060.

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