Adaptation of Critical Importance

According to the scientists at the World Resource Institute (WRI), the number of the people on the planet that are affected by floods every year is going to increase threefold in the coming fifteen years. Environmental NGOs say that the leaders of the international community must focus on the mitigation of climate change effects and the adaptation to natural disasters.

According to the Red Cross, almost half of natural disasters they dealt with last year were caused by floods. The number of people affected by river flooding worldwide could nearly triple in the next 15 years, analysis shows. Climate change and population growth are driving the increase, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

In the UK, about 76,000 people a year could be at risk of being affected by flooding if defenses are not improved, it says. The yearly cost of damage to urban areas could reach more than £1bn.The center says this is the first public analysis of all world data on current and future river-flood risks. It demonstrates some 20 million people are at risk of being affected by flooding, and it costs almost £65bn in GDP. According to the new evaluation, in just 15 years’ time these numbers could rise to around 50 million people with an annual potential cost to the world economy of around £340bn. Much of this is attributed to climate change and socioeconomic development.

For many years, Russia has experienced numerous events of the sort that WRI writes about. The damage caused by the river flooding in May 2014 in Altai alone was estimated to be around 850 million rubles. The Amur River flooding in the fall of 2013 was an even bigger blow to the country’s economy.

According to the Russian Hydrometeorological Agency (Roshydromet), a record-breaking number of extreme weather events was registered in Russia in 2014. Among them were 569 floods, heavy showers and hailing, storms and gale-force winds, heat waves, extreme snowfall etc. In 2013 and 2012, there were 545 and 536 such events, respectively, while 15 to 20 years ago the numbers were much smaller, ranging from 150 to 200. ‘The talk is not only about an increase in numbers, we are talking about an abrupt spike in the trend’, say the authors of the recent Roshydromet 2014 Report on the Special Aspects of Climate in the Territory of the Russian Federation.

What else, apart from river floods and inundations, is climate change going to bring to Russia? The warming is already causing an increased amount of snowfall in Siberia. The weather instability may result in water shortages in some regions, while some other may be overflowing. Russia’s regions may expect the distortion and shifting of climate zones, plagues of insects, natural disasters of all sorts and harvest failures. At the same time, the warming will significantly depend on a season and a region, but is most likely to affect Siberia and subarctic regions.

Environmental NGOs say that adaptation to climate change and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must become one of the top priorities for Russia’s development. Russian environmentalists have repeatedly mentioned this in their joint statements. According to environmental NGOs, immediate actions to facilitate the adaptation to climate change is something that is has the potential to reduce the negative impact of dangerous meteorological events and natural disasters.

Environmentalists emphasize both the importance of the development and implementation of special adaptation programs for all sectors of the economy, and the necessity of measures of adapting dams/hydro power stations to climate change in view of the increasing number of flood events. Besides, of great importance is the stand that member countries to the UNFCCC will take at the climate negotiations that are due in December 2015 in Paris.