New RosHydromet Report: Strategies of Climate Change Response Action are a Vital Necessity

Strategies of response action to climate change on different levels (federal, regional and municipal) will allow us to lower the risk of damage from negative effects of climate change. This is the conclusion made by the authors of the recently published Second Assessment Report on climate change and its effects on the territory of Russian Federation, by RosHydromet. Environmental NGOs make it clear that adaptation and mitigation measures must become an inevitable part of Russia’s national and regional policies.

The first Assessment Report by RosHydromet came out in 2008. The current edition contains more of detailed data related to climate change effects in Russia. Meteorologists conclude that changes in greenhouse gases concentration have been the main contributors to the observed temperature growth on the territory of Russia since the second half of the 20th century.

According to the estimates obtained with the help of the newest climate models, throughout the 21st century Russia will remain a world region where the warming happens significantly faster that the average global warming – in fact, it is almost two and a half times faster than the average global average. However, this climate change is not limited to the growth of average temperatures of the lowest atmospheric layer. It is manifested in all of the components of the climate system, including the changes in hydrologic behavior of water bodies, in ice cover of Russian seas, as well as extreme weather conditions.

Changes in natural land systems on the territory of Russia, which are related to climate change, are very diverse, say the experts. The most significant ones are observed in the Arctic seas of Russia, where the square area of sea ice has diminished dramatically, as well as the thickness of drifting ice and the length of the ice season. The absolute minimum ice cover of the entire observation period was reached in September 2012.

‘Modern model assessments allow us to speak about the persistence of these trends during the entire 21st century and even of the possibility of total disappearance of perennial Arctic sea ice in the first half of the century.’

According to the presented data, there is a major expansion going on, of tree vegetation into mountainous areas and that of dark coniferous taiga into territories that are now occupied by hemlock woods in valleys. Besides, we are observing steppification of many areas, the intensity and spatial distribution of draughts increase. Climate change leads to an increased risk of fires in the majority of forest areas, especially on their southern borders.

According to the authors of the report, given the present conditions and the existing climate change scenarios for the 21st century, many of these trends are likely to continue, and even intensify.

In some regions, with the general trend of the maximal tidal discharge in spring to decrease, significant anomalies may arise, in the form of an increased discharge from rainfall flood.

In the future, by the middle of the 21st century, the intensity of rainfall in summer time in the mountainous areas of Caucasus, Siberia and the Russian Far East may reach extreme numbers, thus causing the frequency and the intensity of rainfall and snowfall floods.

Global climate change leads to significant change in the climates of Russian seas and negative consequences for sea ecosystems, sea-related industries (including transportation, fossil extraction, fishing etc.) and recreational opportunities.

Climate change have a pronounced effect on human health in Russia, the report states. The increase in frequency and duration of heat waves (prolonged periods of dry and hot weather) leads to increased disease incidence as well as mortality, especially in the risk groups (i.e. children, elderly people, those suffering from chronical respiratory illnesses and those of blood circulation organs).

This type of negative effects are often aggravated by the deterioration of air quality, both as the result of unfavorable meteorological conditions, and forest and peat fires. As the result of climate change in the 20th century, distribution areas of many dangerous pests, carrying human diseases, have changed, and in most cases – expanded. Among them are tick-borne encephalitis, ixodic Lyme borreliosis, malaria, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and West-Nile encephalitis. This kind of trends caused by negative climate change effects on human health will persist throughout the 21st century.

According to the authors of the Report, the increase in average temperatures of the cold season and the prolonged vegetation period are positive factors. ‘The warming creates the conditions that allow us to reduce the consumption of energy used to keep premises warm during the cold season,’ the Report says. However, they admit that the overheating of premises and buildings during the warm seasons is becoming an increasing concern. An increased consumption of energy used for air conditioning, along with the reduced industrial efficiency and energy transmission at high temperatures increases the risks of critical situations for energy supply in the future.

According to the experts, there is a strong trend for accelerated weathering and reduced durability of constructions (buildings and industrial premises), due to climate change. The said trends, related to climate change effects on energy consumption in Russia, on constructions and road infrastructure, different facilities located on permafrost, are most likely to persist throughout the 21st century.

‘Apart from stating the obvious effects of climate change, the team of meteorologists came up with a set of recommendations. The increased intensity of negative climate change effects shows the need to speed up the process of developing strategies of response action on different levels – federal, regional, and municipal. This has become completely obvious. Not only will this kind of strategies allow us to reduce the risk of damage as the result of negative consequences of climate change, they will help us increase the efficiency of using the positive ones,’ the report claims.

Today, there is a possibility of using at least one type of renewable energy in almost every region of Russia. The use of renewables is not connected to emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and hence, does not contribute to the warming, the experts say.

Environmental NGOs say that adaptation and mitigation measures must become an inevitable part of national and regional policies. Moreover, they should be based on scientific analysis of the climate change effects, by both Russian and international experts.