Wrangel Island in the Republic of Chukotka, the home of the polar bear. Source: Bezrukov & Bashnaeva
The 2012 floods in Krasnodar were the largest in the history of Russia’s Black Sea coast, killing 171 people. Five months’ volume of rainfall hit the mountainous regions of the Krasnodar in just two days. Rivers overflowed and mixed with mud flows to seriously damage settlements.
In Krymsk, the worst hit city, water levels reached seven metres above normal. The flooding started in the early morning and took everyone by surprise. After the floods, authorities were criticized because the city’s alarm system had failed in the disaster and the local storm sewer system and Adagum riverbed was not prepared for such volumes.
Three years later, Russian and German researchers have shown that there was another culprit: climate change. In an article published in the July 2015 issue of Nature Geo-science, scientists linked the flood in Krymsk to the two-degree Celsius increase in temperatures in the Black Sea since 1984. This is how scientific data highlights the need for cities to prepare for the impact of climate change. But most Russian cities are not prepared. St. Petersburg is the only city with a plan to adapt to climate change.
St. Petersburg’s strategy, adopted this year, took four years to develop and was based on plans from Finland, Denmark, the UK and India. The strategy includes measures for mitigating risks and adapting to serious threats, especially floods.
By 2100, sea levels in the Gulf of Finland could rise by a meter and the city’s flood-protection systems might not work.
Moscow, which suffered severe heat waves in 2010; the Far East, which in 2013 was by the severest flood in centuries; and the Arctic, which scientists say is losing territory at an alarming rate from global warming and erosion, are all without plans to adapt to climate change.
According to Vladimir Chuprov, Greenpeace Russia’s energy expert, the federal plan for adapting to climate change, adopted in 2011, exists only on paper. Its implementation was handed to the Ministry of Regional Development, which was later disbanded. It is now up to the regions themselves to implement the plans.
What to expect from Paris?
The main difference between the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which will most likely be signed at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference beginning on November 30 in Paris, is that the emphasis at the conference will not be on limiting emissions but on ways of adapting to the changing climate.
The conference will be particularly relevant for Russia because its adaptation plans are only in the early stages.
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