Taiwan at a Glance

Natural Environment

Taiwan, situated off the southeast coast of China and separated from the mainland by the Taiwan Strait, is located in the Western Pacific between Japan and the Philippines. With a total area of about 36,188 square kilometers, the main island is 377 kilometers long and 142 kilometers across at its widest point. Taiwan's territory also includes Penghu (the Pescadores), Kinmen (Quemoy), Matsu, and numerous smaller islands.

Taiwan's most prominent geographic feature is its 270-kilometer central mountain range, which has more than 200 peaks that are over 3,000 meters high. Foothills from the central mountain range lead to flatlands and coastal plains in the west and south.The eastern shoreline is relatively steep, and volcanic mountains over 1,000 meters high dominate the northern part of the island. Over 60 percent of the island is classified as mountainous.

Taiwan at a Glance

Taiwan's local climate is greatly influenced by the East Asian monsoon. Rainfall is mostly from thunderstorms and tropical cyclones in the summer and from shallow fronts or mountain slope lifting effects in the winter. In the northeastern part, the season with the most intense rainfall is usually in the autumn. Tropical cyclones (typhoons) are significant not only because they cause disasters, but they are also beneficial carriers of water resources. More than half of the total annual rainfall, particularly in southern Taiwan, comes from typhoons. The temperature variations in Taiwan are mild, with the average temperature around 12-17℃ in the winter and 30℃ during the summer. The warming trend over the entire island in the past 100 years is about 0.8℃ , higher than the global average. Due to its subtropical climate, Taiwan supports a diverse flora of over 4,000 vascular plants and six forest types. This range of flora in turn supports a rich fauna. Sixty-one species of mammals, more than 400 species of birds (about 40% indigenous), 92 species of reptiles, 30 species of amphibians, 140 species of freshwater fish, and an estimated 50,000 insect species, including more than 400 species of butterfly, are known to exist here.

Economic Development

From the early 1960s to 1980s, Taiwan gradually changed from an agriculture-based economy to an industry-based economy. During the past twenty years, Taiwan's economic transition from labor-intensive to technology and capital-intensive industries has created further changes in production ratios for our economic sectors. The current production structure of Taiwan is very similar to those of many industrialized countries. Over the past 20 years, Taiwan has become one the world's top manufacturers and exporter of high-tech products, such as computers and other IC products. As a result, Taiwan ranks as the world’s sixteenth largest trading nation, with a foreign exchange reserve of US$262.9 billion, the third highest in the world.

Adverse Impacts from Climate change

Having the natural environment of a subtropical island, Taiwan is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rate of temperature rise in Taiwan reached as high as 1.43°C (1998) in the last century, almost twice the global average (about 0.6°C) as Figure 1 shows. Efforts are now underway to comprehensively assess the potential effects of climate change on Taiwan. In particular, the impacts could include a rise in the sea level and a shortage of water resources, as well as adverse effects on primary industries, public health, and ecosystems. A rise in the sea level would result in flooding of coastal lands, coastal erosion, and retreat of coastal front. If the sea level rises one meter, an area of about 272 km2 would be flooded in Taiwan, and some coastal communities would face problems of relocation and subsequent social adaptation.

Global Warming is intensifying

The impacts on water resources could include an increase in the frequency and extent of droughts, shortage of water resources as well as various impacts on the livelihood of people and on industrial development. A decrease in rainfall could also affect agricultural production and distribution of plant species. In addition, the rise in temperature could also decrease livestock production as well as fish and shellfish populations. Furthermore, climate change would also promote the growth of pests and the propagation of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, causing significant impact on public health.

Climate change could also increase the frequency and intensity of typhoons and floods. Taiwan’s insurance losses due to typhoons and floods have accumulated 1,324 million NTD (New Taiwan Dollars), about 41.3 million USD from 2003 to 2006.

Adverse Impacts on Taiwan