By Viktor Danilov-Danilian, Director of the Institute of Water Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, for RIA Novosti
Climate change on our planet is becoming less and less predictable. The losses caused by abnormal heat waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes are constantly being calculated. According to the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, in the last ten years, natural disasters have become twice as frequent. Their increasing number is a typical sign of climate change.
Some argue that nothing special is happening in the world today except quite natural variability in climate - it was so in the past, and it will be the same in the future. Others claim that the problem is simply the uncertainty of our knowledge, etc. In any case, it is precisely in the context of uncertainty that we must think about climate risks because they are just as serious as the risks of nuclear war.
Global warming is already an indisputable fact, but the problem is not limited to this phenomenon, because the entire climate system is now unbalanced. The global average temperature at the earth's surface is increasing, but the differences are also increasing. Natural disasters are one of them. As in many other countries of the world, one observes more and more often in Russia big floods and floods with dramatic consequences. They are the source of more than 50% of all economic losses caused by all hydrometeorological phenomena.
On the territory of the Federal Region of Southern Russia, floods and droughts follow one another. It all started with the great spring floods which, followed by heavy downpours in early summer, caused flooding, but throughout the next three months not a single drop of water fell. As a result, the seeds that were not washed away by the floods are destroyed by the drought. Such a threat still hangs over the territories of Krasnodar and Stavropol which are, moreover, the main granaries of Russia, and the loss of the harvest in these lands would be very painful for the whole country. It must be recognized that such scenarios, linked to abnormal climatic phenomena and resulting, as a general rule, in enormous economic losses, take place more and more often nowadays. According to estimates by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), annual losses from various hydrometeorological phenomena, including the consequences of climate change, vary in Russia from 30 to 60 billion rubles.
The Far East of Russia, including Primorsky, Khabarovsk Territory, Kamchatka, Sakhalin Island and the Kurils, is also prone to flooding which is mainly caused by typhoons. Winter floods are typical of rivers and streams in the Glacial Ocean basin. In 2001, the Lena, one of the largest rivers in Eurasia, washed away the port city of Lensk during a great flood. We had to move people, build a new city with all its infrastructures. The volume of losses is hard to imagine.
Warming is on average one degree across Russia, but in Siberia it is much more (4 to 6 degrees). As a result, the permafrost border is constantly shifting, and the serious processes associated with it have already started, for example the modification of the border between the taiga and the sea. wooded tundra, on the one hand, or the border between wooded tundra and tundra, on the other. If we compare the spatial shots of thirty years ago to those of today, we will not fail to notice that the borders of these areas are receding to the north. This trend does not only threaten the large pipelines, but also the entire infrastructure of Western Siberia and Northwest Siberia. At this time, these changes are not severe enough to damage infrastructure from melting permafrost, but we may have to prepare for the worst.
The rise in temperatures represents a colossal danger for the biota. The latter begins to reconstitute itself, but the process is extremely painful. If, indeed, the rise in temperatures is significant, a change in ecosystems will be inevitable. Thus, the taiga, that is to say the coniferous forest, interspersed with peat bogs, will be replaced by trees with broad leaves. But as all warming is accompanied by loss of climate stability, in the general context of a tendency to rise in temperatures, summer and winter temperatures can be just as high as they are extremely low. All in all, such conditions are particularly unfavorable for both types of forests, as the heat is bad for conifers, while very cold winters are not at all suitable for deciduous forests. For this reason, the process of recasting nature until climate stabilization promises to be dramatic and unstable.
Rising temperatures are a very dangerous factor for marshes and permafrost, as this will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide and methane from decaying plants. The gas hydrates, contained in the continental shelves of the North Seas, will not fail to pass to the gaseous state. All of this will increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and, consequently, reinforce general warming.
As a result of such drastic changes, the ecological balance will deteriorate (and is already deteriorating), and the living conditions of many animals and plants will worsen. For example, the range of the polar bear has been greatly reduced today. In 20 to 40 years, millions of geese, eiders, barnacles and other birds may lose half of the nesting areas. If temperatures rise by 3 to 4 degrees, the food chain of the tundra ecosystem will be affected, which will inevitably affect many animal species.
The invasion, which also bears witness to the restructuring of the biota, is undoubtedly one of the most unpleasant manifestations of global warming. Invasion is the penetration of foreign species into ecosystems. Thus, a pest of fields as dangerous as the locust continues to advance north. For this reason, the region of Samara (on the Volga) and a whole series of other regions are today threatened by these herbivorous and very voracious insects. The range of ticks has also increased sharply in recent times. What is more, these parasites are migrating north much faster than the border of, say, taiga or forested tundra recedes. Penetrating into different ecosystems, these parasites intervene as gangster species, their own active reproduction having a devastating effect. There is no doubt that the current climate changes create favorable conditions for all these negative phenomena, as well as for the spread of diseases of all kinds. So, already in the Moscow region anopheles - this inhabitant of subtropical areas is found.
Some scientists claim that the migration from the agricultural frontier to the North is good for Russia. Indeed, the vegetation period increases. However, this "benefit" is rather illusory because it could be accompanied by an increasing risk of severe spring frosts which kill the emerging plants.
Could it be that, thanks to global warming, Russia can save energy by being forced to heat less? And there, it would be useful to mention the example of the United States, which spends much more energy on air conditioning the premises than Russia spends on heating.
But how can the human community cope with the threats emanating from climate change? Trying to oppose nature is a notoriously thankless endeavor. However, this damage that humans inflict on nature can be minimized. This task has been put on the political agenda already in the past century. In 1988, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which is a forum thousands of researchers, including scientists from Russia. In 1994, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force, which 190 countries around the world are now in favor of. This document defined the framework for international cooperation, of which the Kyoto Protocol (Japan), adopted in 1997, is the first fruit. As we are already certain that intense economic activities have a negative impact on the climate, the Kyoto Protocol has set itself the task of reducing anthropogenic effects on the atmosphere, in particular by reducing the release of greenhouse gases. greenhouse, including carbon dioxide and methane. Having ratified the Kyoto Protocol jointly with the other 166 signatory countries of this document, Russia is making its contribution to reducing the anthropogenic load on the atmosphere. But how to act? By the implantation of new "clean" technologies, by the general elevation of the culture of production and of life. By cleaning up the atmosphere, humanity will undoubtedly help the climate.
The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author.