To avoid more severe impacts from climate change, countries worldwide pledged to implement intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) for emission reductions (as part of the Paris Agreement). However, it remains unclear what the resulting precipitation change in terms of regional extremes would be in response to the INDC scenarios. Here, we analyzed China’s extreme precipitation response of the next few decades to the updated INDC scenarios within the framework of the Paris Agreement. Our results indicate increases in the intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation (compared with the current level) in most regions in China. The maximum consecutive five-day precipitation over China is projected to increase ~16%, and the number of heavy precipitation days will increase as much as ~20% in some areas. The probability distributions of extreme precipitation events become wider, resulting in the occurrence of more record-breaking heavy precipitation in the future. We further considered the impacts of precipitation-related extremes and found that the projected population exposure to heavy precipitation events will significantly increase in almost all Chinese regions. For example, for heavy precipitation events that exceed the 20 year baseline return value, the population exposure over China increases from 5.7% (5.1–6.0%) to 15.9% (14.2–16.4%) in the INDC-pledge scenario compared with the present-day level. Limiting the warming to lower levels (e.g., 1.5 °C or 2.0 °C) would reduce the population exposure to heavy precipitation, thereby avoiding impacts associated with more intense precipitation events. These results contribute to an improved understanding of the future risk of climate extremes, which is paramount for the design of mitigation and adaptation policies in China.
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