Snowstorm blankets Beijing: is this climate change?

Feature Story - 2010-01-05

It's the big freeze here in Beijing.

Over the weekend, bone-chilling snowstorms buffeted northern China.

They were some of the worst on record.

The north of the city recorded more than 20 cms of snow.

Some 8cm of snow fell on Sunday in the Chinese capital, a daily record since 1951.

And Monday night, the mercury plummeted to -15.6 Celsius, the coldest January since the 1980's.

Today, Beijing's streets resound with the sound of workers hacking at the snow with shovels.

They are clearing the roads for cars and piling the icy, and now muddy snow, into piles at the edges of roads.

Flights were cancelled, trains were stopped, roads were blocked and children got the day off school.

To see more images of the snowstorm scroll to the bottom of this page.

China blames climate change

Yesterday, Head of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau Guo Hu called the freak snowstorm and freezing temperatures an extreme weather event, linked to climate change.

Scientists have all along said climate change will cause extreme weather events to occur more frequently and more intensely.

The other name for climate change -- global warming -- is a misnomer as the phenomenon doesn't mean warmer weather.

It means more destructive and abnormal weather events including heatwaves and droughts but also freak snowstorms and plummeting temperatures.

Northern China's freak snowstorms this January come just weeks after world leaders failed to agree on a strong deal to stop climate change in December's Copenhagen climate summit.

The crippling weather only adds more urgency to the need for them not to make the same mistake this year.

The vicious cycle of climate change

The irony, is of course, that in this freezing weather we need more power to keep homes and offices warm.

China's key fuel is coal - some 70% of energy is generated by burning coal - and burning coal is the single biggest cause of climate change.

To break this vicious cycle of climate change, China needs to break free of its dependence on coal.

With more clean sources of energy, such as wind, wave and solar, we could all jack up the heating systems, confident that we were not polluting the atmosphere and causing worse weather to come.

We will leave you with some more images of the freak weather, a sober reminder of the urgency of stopping climate change.

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