Efforts for global climate governance on China's Qinghai Plateau

Dec 15, 2019

Xining (China) Dec 15: Every time Wang Jianqiong goes to work, he arrives out of breath after climbing the 99 steps to his office.
Wang works as a meteorological monitor at the China Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Baseline Observatory at Mount Waliguan in northwest China's Qinghai Province. Located 3,816 meters above sea level on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, it is the highest of the 31 GAW observatories in the world.
The observatory so far has realized all-weather and high-density observation of more than 60 elements in 30 projects, including greenhouse gases, solar radiation, radioactive substances and precipitation, with more than 60,000 pieces of data collected every day. It has been sharing its data with international meteorological organizations since it was put into operation in 1994.
"We need to walk slowly here to prevent fainting caused by altitude sickness," said Wang, after he and his partner unloaded food and necessities from their car. They take turns and change shifts every 10 days.
Despite having worked at the station for years, altitude sickness is still a major challenge for the monitors who mainly live in the province's capital city of Xining, about 2,200 meters above sea level and 140 km away from the observatory. Some people can barely sleep in the first few days because of the lack of oxygen.
However, the high-altitude station in harsh conditions is an ideal place for special observations.
"In order to detect the natural contents of various trace elements that represent the uniform mixing of the whole atmosphere, one must meet very high environmental requirements," said Sun Jinglan, deputy director of the comprehensive observation department of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA).
Wang and his colleagues thus eat pre-cooked meals three times a day all year round on the plateau to reduce the impact of cooking fumes on data collection, and many of them suffer from gastrointestinal diseases as a result.
The local government also took a host of measures to ensure the area is not affected by external factors. It has banned all projects discharging pollutants within a 50-km radius of the observatory and even the flight from Xining to Yushu, which had been scheduled to pass through the area, was rerouted.
Outside the station is an 80-meter observation tower, which the monitors often climb up and down in spite of the danger. Neither the heat and strong sunshine nor the cold and windy weather prevent them from dusting, clearing the ice and reinforcing the instruments to ensure the tower's smooth operation.
Over the past 25 years, the meteorologists here have built up an extended series of observations of greenhouse gas concentrations. The carbon dioxide curve based on this data is known as the "Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Curve," or "Maliguan Curve."
"The curves are very important and valuable. One of the main reasons the Chinese government supports the idea of climate change is that we have the relevant observational data," said Liu Ning, governor of Qinghai Province.
China has been actively participating in global climate governance in areas such as global atmospheric baselines and greenhouse gas observations, said Zhang Wenjian, assistant secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization.
Six of the monitors have also been involved in international scientific research activities including expeditions to Antarctica. Li Delin, 42, one of the most senior monitors at the station, spent a year and a half working in Antarctica from 2012 to 2014.
"I firmly believe that our data will benefit future generations, so our efforts on the plateau are worth it," he said.
At present, the construction project of the office building at the station with a total investment of 9.8 million yuan (1.39 million U.S. dollars) has been approved. A scientific and standardized laboratory will also be built to promote atmospheric monitoring operations.
"As the largest developing country, China has become an increasingly important part of global ecological civilization. In the process of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China has contributed wisdom and solutions to global climate governance and ecological progress," said Liu Yaming, director of the CMA.
Source: Xinhua