From the frying pan and into the flame: a new report on climate change has been released

“Russian companies should take the key positions in those industries and those markets which will outline the character of economy and people’s life style for the next two or three decades,” authors of the State Report ‘On the Status and Protection of the Environment in the Russian Federation in 2016’: Climate Change” believe.”.

the State Report  traditionally contains analysis of the data of monitoring on the atmosphere air, water resources, soils, the geological environment, and bio diversity. It also gives an assessment of the impact of particular industries on the state of the environment and “major environmental indexes in terms of industries.”  As usual, the report brings data of the previous year, but this is for the reason of consolidation of huge amounts of information from all regions of the country.   


Authors of the report specified the data: in 2016, the average winter temperature anomaly for Russia amounted to + 3.51°С.  The highest temperature anomaly was registered in the area of the Gulf of Ob and the Central Siberian Plateau: it exceeded the norm by 7%. At that, the temperature was above the climate norm all over the territory of the country. In 2016, the highest record-breaking temperature was registered all over the Northern Polar area since 1936.  


“Climate warming in the Arctic stipulated fast downsizing of the area of seawater ice in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation: the ice area is almost two times smaller than in the 1980s.  Expanse of the Arctic ice was below normal in the course of the entire year.”  


The authors of the report pointed out that “in 2016, emergence of 590 cases of dangerous meteorological elements was registered in Russia. This was the biggest amount of hazardous elements through the entire period of record.”  


The Report brings the data about negative consequences of climate warming in Russia. First of all, this is growth of droughtiness and increase of the number of anomalous weather events, major fires and floods.  It is pointed out in the Report that frequency of droughts in the major bread basket regions of Russia might go up in 1.5 – 2 times. The number of days with abnormal amounts of snowfalls went up in the European part of Russia. With that, higher droughtiness is registered all over the major parts of the agricultural zone of Russia. Since 1996, the number of hazardous hydro meteorological elements causing noticeable damages to the economy and public has significantly increased. “These processes keep going on and now: we should expect even more windstorms and droughts,” the authors of the Report came to this conclusion.


“If we speak about the impact of climate warming on specific regions of Russia, the most negatively it affects southern regions because of drought: in the North Caucasus, the Volga Region, Urals, and in the area of the Central Black Earth Region, in the south of West Siberia and in the Altai Krai. Risks in the North Caucasus are particularly high: the productivity there might drop down by 22% as compared to the present statistically average level. In the Volga Region, it might go down by 13%, in the Urals by 14%, in the south of West Siberia by 12%, while in the Central Black Earth Region by 7%.”


According to the data brought in the Report, the major amount of emissions (as in previous years) is related to extraction, refinement, transportation, storage, and utilization of fossil fuels:  82.7%.  Growth of emissions was registered in most of industries including “Power Production” and “Agriculture,” “Industrial processes and production utilization”, and “Wastes”.


The Roshydromet data specified in the Report show that in the long-term prospect, in case of climate change, preconditions for the increase of CO2 emission by soils will be quite favorable in the major part of Russia, while the stock of soil carbon will be reducing. This way, exactly what both independent experts and activists of public environmental organizations had been warning about is taking place: the forestry sector is gradually turning from the greenhouse gas absorber into its producer.  By 2020, СО2 emission by Russia’s soils will increased as compared to the reference period of 1981-2000 by 6% in the average, while by 2050, the increase will reach 17%. This is why we need urgent elaboration of measures for protecting soils and maintaining carbon balance in them, experts say.  


“The Ministry of Nature of Russia has not once stressed the necessity of adaptation, its absolute expedience,” is said in the Report, which also indicates the need in adaptation measures in the rural sector, forestry, and health care.  


“So far, Russia has no full-fledged system of greenhouse gas emission control,” the authors of the Report claimed. “However, emissions in particular industries are already under control, e.g., the oil and gas industry: methane in associated gas flaring. Also, restrictions have been established for enterprises on emissions of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and halocarbon-23.”


As it follows from the report, Russia’s concept of long-term strategy of low-carbon development should be ready by the end of 2019. “Russian companies should take the key positions in those industries and those markets which will outline the character of economy and people’s life style in the next two or three decades, exactly in the same way as it happened with IT technologies which had cardinally changed our entire life in the last 20 years. This will demand reconsideration of forecasts and programs and formation of new, more ambitious goals on energy efficiency enhancement, changes in the generation structure in favor of RESs and, correspondingly, more  noticeable reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the period of 2020-2030 with coming out onto the trajectory of low-carbon development by 2050. We must legally secure the issues of accounting on greenhouse gas emissions without which we cannot launch any schemes of emission control.”


Activists of public environmental organizations agree with the principal conclusions of the State Report concerning the necessity of low-carbon development strategy and realization of the climate change adaptation programs. Besides this, in their Position they suggested to “Correct and enhance the already existing variant of the goal on greenhouse gas emissions by 2030: to adopt the goal of reduction in the Russian economy’s sectors of 2500 mln tons of CO2 equivalent per year (35 - 40 % below the 1990 level) without accounting of forests and adopt a separate goal for the forests…”

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