Hong Kong, the home to a population of over 7 million people, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. I should know, because I have lived in Hong Kong for a time and often visit some family members. Having lived anywhere for a good amount of time you can’t help but make a comparison from where you usually live. Currently, I live in Brooklyn, NY, and around the summer of 2016 I visited my relatives in Hong Kong. That’s when I noticed that the temperature was not all that different than the temperature in Brooklyn for that time of the year but, when I went back to visit Hong Kong during the winter of 2017, I noticed that instead of being cold like it usually is back in Brooklyn around winter time, I felt that it was more like spring temperature. Looking back now, I noticed that every time I would entered a new building while I was there, during summer and winter time, I noticed that the air conditioners were always on and that when I left the building, I always felt this rush of heat come at me as made my way outside. Also, when I look back at the times I was there, the rainfall was much heavier there then back home in Brooklyn. The Hong Kong Observatory Headquarters hko.gov.hk, has recorded annual mean temperature readings as far back as 1885, except for 1940 to 1946 due to World War II. The data they have shows there was an average rise of 0.13°C per decade from 1885-2018, and from this data they found that the rate of temperature increase has become faster since the 1990s, with it reaching 0.17°C per decade instead of the 0.13°C that it was before, as shown below.
From an article by the South China Morning Post at scmp.com, studies using past data and hydrologic models, have shown that with the continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions floods are going to be more frequent and heavier rainfall would increase not only in number but in their strength as well. In the same study it is shown that the amount of water that can still be used and to drink would fall and that signifies a potential risk of a water shortage. Hong Kong, due to climate change, will also experience extreme precipitation weather events becoming more frequent. Hourly rainfall records at the Hong Kong Observatory was broken several times in the last few decades, where it used to take several decades to break the record in the past.
Researchers have also found that for a long time now, the number of hot nights and very hot days in Hong Kong has increased while the number of cold days has decreased. Hong Kong, much like New York City, faces a similar problem in the future because of rising sea levels. Records from 56 years of tide gauges in the Victoria Harbor since 1950s have shown a definite rise in the mean sea level. There was a sharp rise in the sea level from 1990 to 2000 but, with a decrease later. On average, the mean sea level in the Victoria Harbor has risen at a rate of 2.6 mm per year during the period 1950s to the 2010s, as shown below. With the rise in seas level, heavier rainfalls and the increase in temperature, you can be sure that it will affect the health of the people in Hong Kong. Studies have shown that in the heavily urbanized and densely packed Hong Kong, death rates increase on an average of 1.8% for every one-degree increase when temperatures reach 28°C. Also because of climate change there have been a decrease in the average wind speeds in the city, which means that the city is not as cool during the night, and that means urban sites are becoming much warmer than surrounding rural areas.
As all these changes are being recorded and models are used to predicted what will happen in the future, the Hong Kong government isn’t just standing by and doing nothing; much like New York City, they are taking steps to help mitigate the changes. Hong Kong will cut down the use of coal for electricity generation and use more natural gases and increase the use of non-fossil fuel sources and has been actively promoting the use of cleaner fuel and renewable energy sources to generate power. Since Hong Kong has so many buildings and skyscrapers, they consume a lot of energy and because of that Hong Kong has a “Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance”, that requires major building service installations of new buildings and existing buildings to undergo a major reconstruction to fulfill the energy efficiency standards. These requirements are specified in the Building Energy Code. Buildings are not the only changes that are being made, the Hong Kong government is actively promoting the use of electric commercial vehicles in Hong Kong. In 2011 of March a $300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund was set up to encourage the public transport area and goods vehicle operators to test out green innovative transport technologies. The Hong Kong government has also fully backed the contracted bus companies to purchase 36 single-deck electric buses, which includes 28 battery-electric buses and 8 supercapacitor buses.
Hong Kong is not only trying to mitigate the effects of climate change, but they are also adapting to the changes by sharing knowledge and coordinating efforts of climate adaptation to strengthen infrastructure and work programs. They are also going to integrate drainage and flood management projects with good landscaping to upgrade their service and biodiversity. Also, by recycling used water and harvesting rainwater, plus implementing water purification, Hong Kong is trying to increase its sources of water.
Before starting these blogs, I always knew that climate change will affect us in one way or another, but I never realized that I would experience them while visiting my family in Hong Kong. Looking back to places that I have been to in the past and compared them to now, I have noticed that there are slight differences; the changes are there but they are very small and would not necessarily be noticed if you did not take the time to see them. I think this is how most people are missing these changes. Changes usually start off too small to be noticed and in no time they become very big. At that point, either changes due to climate change could be overwhelming and very time consuming to deal with or it might just be too late to do anything about them.