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59 Dams: China's climate change challenges

June 2009

Why 59 dams may help to ease China's potential water security issues

59 Dams: China's climate change challenges

China is building 59 dams to create new meltwater storage reservoirs - because climate change is beginning to cause permanent shrinkage of glaciers that feed its major rivers.

New plans focus mainly on the western Xinjiang region, but water shortages could soon threaten the rest of the country – as well as India and other neighbours – due to melting of Tibet’s Himalayan ice sheet. Climate change experts fear that as many as 1.7 billion people worldwide could be affected by water shortages in 2100 if nothing is done to slow the current global rate of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. China recently became the world's number one GHG polluter (per country) – so what is its response to the climate change challenges that lie ahead?


  • KS3, GCSE and AS/A2/IB teaching of climate change impacts on water cycles, glaciers and vulnerable populations
  • A2 teaching of glacial systems
  • AS/A2 teaching of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies; and the complexities of reaching a post-Kyoto global agreement on action

In the Members' Area:

  • Why do China’s megacities rely on meltwater?
  • How does glacial system theory help explain China's water problem?
  • What are China’s adaptation or mitigation strategies for climate change?
  • Key Stage 3 PowerPoint Presentation

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