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Tibet threatened by global warming: state media

world Updated: May 06, 2009 17:11 IST

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China's top weather official warned on Wednesday that Tibet was threatened by global warming, which could cause floods and droughts endangering millions in the nation's west, state media reported.

"The impact of global warming has accelerated glacial shrinkage, and the melting glaciers have swollen Tibet's lakes," Zheng Guoguang, head of the China Meteorological Bureau, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

"If the warming continues, millions of people in western China will face floods in the short term and drought in the long run."

Zheng said the temperature in the Tibet region had climbed an average of 0.32 degrees Celsius every decade since records began in 1961 -- much higher than the equivalent average national rise of 0.05 to 0.08 degrees, Xinhua said.

Tibet's temperature rise has also topped the global average increase of 0.2 degrees Celsius every 10 years, according to the report.

The Tibetan plateau, with an average altitude exceeding 4,000 metres (13,300 feet), was a "magnifier" of global warming as it was more sensitive to temperature changes, Zheng said.

In addition to the risk of floods and drought, extreme weather conditions often caused disasters such as landslides, and permafrost in the region could melt and threaten the railway to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

"Tibet needs to tackle, and adapt to, the persisting climate change," Zheng was quoted as saying.