Massive Landslides in China

The impact of climate change just keeps coming. 1,117 people are dead in massive landslides in China. Combine that with the forest fires in Russia and the floods in Pakistan, and you have a clear view of our future. Natural disasters don’t come out of nowhere. Heavy rains that cause flooding and landslides, as well as drought that triggers forest fires are impacts of climate change.

The landslides took place in Zhouqu county, Gansu province. They were triggered by heavy rain. Rain that is still falling. Another three and a half inches of rain were forecasted for Friday. So the landslides we’ve seen so far are probably just the beginning.

It’s not exclusively a consequence of climate change. Poor engineering played a role. The landslides occurred when an artificial lake overflowed its banks as a result of the heavy rains. Better placement of threat artificial lake could have prevented this situation. This strikes me as a classic example of the need to respond to and prepare for climate change.

Chinese officials report that they’re moving aid rapidly into the area. Floods and landslides are a common even in the Chinese summer, so emergency plans to exist and are being followed. That kind of resilience doesn’t help the 1117 people who were killed outright by the landslide, but it does make a difference to the surviving occupants of the 4000 homes that were damaged or destroyed.

We need to learn from this. Climate change brings greater risk, and we need to minimize that as best we can. It will also bring terrible disasters; we need to be prepared.

Image: flickr