As we approach the end of August, 2022, the phrase “supply chain issues” is a commonly understood concept. It’s handy, because it can describe any number of things—from the ongoing semiconductor shortage, to ongoing shipping woes associated with supply chains that reach around the globe, and so on.
In August, 2022, a new supply chain disruption is rearing its head—and this time, it’s climate-related. The Chinese province of Sichuan—which is home to both incredibly tasty cuisine and a huge international manufacturing hub—is currently in the midst of a stifling heat wave and drought.
Drought anywhere is bad news—but it’s even worse news in Sichuan, which derives approximately 80 percent of its electricity from hydropower. As temperatures climb, the local government has instructed factories in various industries to shut down so that the available power can be used by the people living in the affected areas.
Global battery powerhouse Contemporary Amperex Technology Company (CATL), which operates a huge lithium battery production facility in Yibin, temporarily halted operations through August 20, according to Bloomberg. Other battery makers had previously flocked to the area as well, seeking to reduce their own emissions in the manufacturing process by setting up facilities that rely primarily on hydropower.
Toyota also temporarily shut down a facility in the region, as did companies in the fertilizer, steel, and aluminum industries. Crops (Sichuan produces significant amounts of rice and corn, among other things), livestock, lithium (used in batteries), and polysilicon (used in solar panels) production have already seen negative impacts from the climate and power crisis.
Production facilities in the neighboring Chongqing region have also suspended production, because the climate crisis doesn’t stop at the Sichuan border. In the Shanxi province, located in northern China, recent serious flooding has led to coal mine closures in the region that’s the nation’s largest coal producer—also resulting in energy woes related to climate change.
As we write this in late August, 2022, the Sichuan heatwave has been ongoing for over two months. Researcher Cai Wenju, who works for Australian science institute CSIRO, told Reuters that “the current extreme heat [in this region] is likely to stem from a special case of high pressure from a West Pacific subtropical high extending over much of Asia.”
The ongoing Chinese heatwave is already the longest on record since the National Climate Center started keeping records in 1961. As of August 17, 2022, 262 separate weather stations throughout the country had recorded temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) or above, and eight had also topped 44 C (111F). Forecasts expected the heatwave to continue through at least August 26 throughout central China.
The impact of this heatwave on the local population, as well as all industrial production in the area, will likely be significant. We’re also unlikely to have a full picture of how significant it will be until sometime after the fact. In any case, here’s hoping that the local people are able to get through this trying time as safely as they can.