It is time to adapt

Natural hazardous events were registered in more subjects of the Russian Federation in 2013 than previously. Experts say that the "nervosity" of the environment is growing. Representatives of environmental organizations and scientists are confident that prompt action on adaptation to climate change may reduce the impact of these trends.

In 2012, natural hazardous events were registered in 78 subjects of the Russian Federation, according to the EMERCOM of Russia, in 2013 - in 80 subjects. In addition, the Ministry of Emergency Situations marks increase of the number of natural hazardous events in Russia in 2012 and 2013 by 1.5 times as compared to average values. The largest number of such events occurred in North Ossetia, Bashkiria, Tatarstan, Stavropol, Altai, and Krasnoyarsk Territories, Sakhalin, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Kirov, and Samara regions.

Leo Carlin, the rector of the Russian State Hydrometeorological University, says: “There are years when the number of severe weather events is less, but, in principle, this number is increasing year by year.” Meteorologists estimate that the annual number of hazardous weather events increases by 1.5 times each year since the beginning of the 90s.

Experts remind that back in 2011 experts of "Antistikhiya" Centre with the EMERCOM of Russia said that forecast of the office gives a major change in the regime of temperature and precipitation in the next five years. And this, in turn, should lead to a substantial change in the volume of annual runoff of Russian rivers.

The flood of 2013 in the Far East that eclipsed in scale all previous ones over the years of observations is the vindication of expert opinions who believe that it is impermissible to underestimate the possibility of natural hazardous events and disasters. Flood damage in the Far East reached 40 billion rubles.

Floods and inundations, which have been named among the main sources of damage from all natural disasters in Russia, will become by 2015 an even more serious threat to the Arkhangelsk Oblast, Komi Republic, Urals regions, and areas along Yenisei, Lena and Amur rivers.

The stereotype of the fatality of natural phenomena and human minor role in these processes is still tenacious. Meanwhile, the factors indicated by EMERCOM experts and meteorologists are not fully accounted for and are ignored by the "big" policy. Victor Kryukov, a Project Manager of the Institute of the Far East, says that the situation on the Amur River was the result of several simultaneous factors: rain, deforestation, the impact of hydroelectric power stations, drainage of wetlands, and a thick clay layer in the Amur drainage area. According to the expert, hydroelectric power stations first store water and then release it. It is typical both for Russian hydropower plants and for Chinese ones - the Songhua River gave almost half in the flood runoff in the past years.

"The statement that energy companies are not guilty is a fairy tale - says Victor Kryukov. - Money and power are in their hands. And there are still those present who are willing to build new hydropower plants."

Another problem is that authorities pay little heed to the opinion of experts, scientists and the public. Professor Oleg Anisimov, the Head of the Department for climate change research of the State Hydrological Institute, says: "It shall be understood that such phenomena were in the past, occur now, and will occur in the future. So we shall not talk about how to avoid them, but how to build business activities to experience such disasters with minimum economic, environmental and social losses."

Representatives of public environmental organizations are sure that prompt action on adaptation to climate change can reduce the impact of natural hazardous events and natural disasters. The Resolution of the Sixth All-Russian Conference of Socio-Ecological Union notes the importance of development and implementation of special programs on adaptation for all sectors of the economy and the need for urgent action on climate adaptation of hydroelectric dams in connection with the floods that become more frequent. Representatives of the environmental community call for "introduction of the necessary changes in the rules of water regulation at HPPs for periods of high water, taking into account short-term and long-term forecasts, to prevent and mitigate the consequences of emergency situations that are harmful to the people and the infrastructure."