How China has gone to war with unprecedented drought with technological means?

On a grassy plateau overlooking a valley in central China, two officials watched as a small, slender missile was launched from the back of a pickup truck. This rocket, which was carrying a load of silver iodide rods and intended to start rain, moved towards the clouds above Zigui city in Hubei province. The launch is just the latest round of China’s efforts to combat its current drought, which is the worst on record.

Using chemicals to artificially release rain from clouds is called cloud fertilization. In addition to missiles, the Chinese authorities have also sent large drones to the skies of Sichuan province, another central region of the country. These birds also throw silver iodide flames into the earth’s atmosphere in hopes of causing rain.

China’s activities may seem unnecessary to some; But all these stubborn efforts and testing various methods by the Chinese authorities are done in response to the drought; An unprecedented situation that has turned China’s lakes into bowls of dust and has dragged the citizens of that country underground in some areas to escape the temperature of 40 degrees Celsius and above. Evaporation of river water has also caused a decrease in the production of hydroelectric power in the dams and naturally led to a shortage of electricity.

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China is clearly struggling to cope with this crippling drought. But it seems that the problems of water shortage in this country are deeper than these, and it is not yet clear how effective the efforts of the Chinese will be to correct their recent climate situation.

Adele Eagle, head of the cloud physics department at UC Davis, pointing to the fact that the correct scientific answer to the question, “Does cloud fertilization really work?” How difficult it is for scientists, he explains:

If you go and fertilize a cloud and then see how much it rains or snows, you don’t know how much snow and rain you would have had if you hadn’t done the fertilization.

Miss Eagle It refers to the 2019 scientific review. In that study, the authors found that certain forms of cloud fertilization can increase precipitation by up to 20 percent when targeting winter clouds in mountainous regions. Eagle explains:

The scientific idea behind silver iodide is that [با استفاده از این ماده] Help form new ice crystals or snowflakes in the cloud.

Next, these extra snowflakes must grow and fall more easily to the ground as snow or rain. However, he adds that it is not possible to make a definite opinion about whether cloud fertilization in the summer and at times when the amount of ice in the clouds is low or there is no ice in the clouds at all, and there is a difference of opinion in scientific circles.

On the other hand, we should not neglect an obvious point. For cloud fertilization, we need clouds to be present in the desired areas in the first place. During extreme heat events and prolonged droughts, it is possible for clouds to become essentially scarce; Because there is less water on Earth to evaporate and go to the higher parts of the atmosphere. At best, cloud fertilization will be “somewhat effective” as a drought mitigation measure, Eagle said.

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But making the clouds believable is not the only action of China in the fight against drought; Although most of their other actions are long-term in nature. The South-North Water Project is a massive engineering effort to build canals and tunnels that will transport water from the south to the north of China. The total estimated cost for such a work is 62 billion dollars, and news about the construction of a 9.8 billion dollar tunnel to Beijing was announced last month.

There is only one problem in this; The current drought is affecting the central and southern regions of China, and these regions are exactly where the water transfer programs are supposed to help instead of the northern regions, which are often affected by drought. The northern regions of China are affected by drought more often than the southern regions.

Gabriel Collins “They may actually make the drought worse,” says Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Texas. He adds that although other technologies, such as desalination, may seem tempting; But they are very expensive and probably limited to highly industrialized coastal areas; Where more demand will make them more economically viable.

Collins recently met with Gopal Reddyfounder of Ready for Climate, an environmental research organization. He wrote an article about the long-standing problems of water shortage in China. Reddy writes in that article:

The structural problem is much scarier than this season’s drought in my opinion.

Reddy explains that China has limited usable groundwater reserves. These reserves can be useful for curing drought and help in difficult times. But the problem is that currently, especially in the northern parts of China, underground water reserves have been damaged due to excessive extraction.

Nathan Forsyth from the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom says that exploiting groundwater reserves is a “resort of last resort” because once the water in the underground resources is exhausted, more time will be needed to regenerate them. The status of underground water sources depends on the filtering of rainwater deep in the ground. This is despite the fact that most of the rain simply evaporates or otherwise disappears without reaching the depths of the earth.

But filling water reserves is basically a good way to plan before a drought occurs. China has a huge ability in this field and can build reservoirs to store more and better rainwater in the fields. They can also create special vegetation to conserve moisture. Small-scale farmers in China have reportedly used ponds to store water on site for thousands of years. Expanding the use of such measures and solutions can also be useful.

One of the most serious effects of this year’s drought is its effect on agricultural products. Photos of sun-damaged fields full of dead fruits and vegetables have been published in China. Rebecca Nadine The Institute for Overseas Development Affairs, a think tank on global affairs, argues that China is somewhat leading the world in efforts to develop drought-resistant crops, and the same path may soon extend to the genetic engineering of wheat and rice. China has also recently approved the use of drought-tolerant soybeans marketed by Argentinian company Bioceres.

to believe Iago Dai From the State University of New York at Albany, all of these interventions may go some way to improving China’s chances of fighting drought. But the threat of drier conditions from climate change is huge. It is possible that some regions of China, especially the northern regions, will see more rainfall in the coming years. But if the overall trend leads to hotter and drier conditions in places that are unable to quickly adapt to water shortages, things will become very difficult.

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Forsyth notes that the quickest thing any country can do in response to a drought is to reduce demand and ensure that water is not wasted. But in a country of 1.4 billion people whose factories operate day and night to produce and ship products around the world, there are clearly limits to those controls. For example, it is estimated that recent relatively short power shortages caused by hydropower shortages have left about one million electric vehicles and 400,000 charging stations without power.

Water scarcity is becoming a problem that all of us will face to some extent in every corner of the world depending on geography and other climatic features. But the Chinese authorities must be fully aware of the magnitude of the droughts; A phenomenon that clearly threatens the ambitions of this country. Forsyth says:

The greatest threat to China’s ascendancy as the leading superpower of this century is likely its environmental vulnerabilities. Natural capital management will definitely benefit them.

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