| HARBIN, China
HARBIN, China Chinese scientists have warned
that climate change is hurting the most famous draw in the
northern city of Harbin -- its annual ice sculpture contest.
Average annual temperatures in the city perched on the edge
of Siberia hit 6.6 degrees Celsius (44 Fahrenheit) last year,
the highest average since records began, and the ice sculptures
are feeling the heat.
"In the beginning of December 2002, ice lanterns in Harbin
melted right after they were sculpted. What came out of the
work was sweaty ice sculptures," Yin Xuemian, senior
meteorologist at the Heilongjiang Observatory, told Reuters.
Problems got worse in 2006.
"Lots of money and energy were spent on redoing the
sculptures. As the temperature rises, the period of ice and
snow activities have shortened dramatically."
China has blamed global warming for growing water shortages
around the country that have been taking their toll on rice
cultivation. Climate change is also shrinking the country's
high altitude glaciers.
"Global warming was only something people talked about. But
it's when we take a look at documents, statistics and the
actual change of climate that we realize how alarming it can
be," said Yin. "The average temperature of winter in Harbin is
5 degrees Celsius higher than historical records."
Despite the changes in temperatures and patterns of drought
and flooding around the country, China, which is on track to
overtake the United States as the world's top emitter of carbon
dioxide, has resisted setting firm caps on its emissions
Instead, it says rich countries must take the lead in
fighting climate change and do more to transfer clean-energy
technologies to the developing world.
Far from the global debates about how to curb climate
change, participants in Harbin's festival have more immediate
concerns: how to keep their creations from melting.
"We are worried that the thing will collapse. We tried to
readjust a little bit," said one Malaysian participant chipping
away at a hunk of ice.
A Chinese Canadian participant said he was feeling the same
changes in his adopted country.
"When I first got to Canada, it was so cold. But now, it's
getting much warmer," he said. "Maybe slowly, Vancouver will
become Hong Kong."
(Writing by Lindsay Beck; Editing by Nick Macfie and