Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 12:31 UK

'Climate threat' to Tibet region

A glacier (file photo)
Climate change has led to glaciers shrinking, and rising water levers

Rising temperatures in Tibet are threatening droughts and floods, which could endanger millions of people, China's top weather official warned.

Climate change "has accelerated glacial shrinkage" which has already led to swollen lakes, said Zheng Guoguang.

He said that if the warming continued, many of those living in western China would face "floods in the short-term and drought in the long-run".

Beijing says it wants to tackle climate change yet ensure economic development.

Experts say more than 400 million people in China are already living with the problem of desertification, partly brought on by climate change.

"Tibet needs to tackle and adapt to the persisting climate change," Mr Zheng, the head of the China Meteorological Bureau, was quoted as saying by state media.

He described the Tibetan plateau - which has an average altitude of more than 4,000m (13,300ft) - as a "magnifier" of global warming, more sensitive to temperature change.

He said that the temperature there had risen by 0.32C every 10 years since 1961 - much higher than the average national rise of 0.05-0.08C.

This acceleration also surpassed the global average increase of 0.2C every decade, Xinhua news agency reported.

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