Climate change in Ukraine: to be continued?

Author: Oksana Aliieva, coordinator of the "Climate change and energy policy" program

2017 April snowfalls in Ukraine showed that climate change issues are as  relevant to us as to other countries.

Climate change - is a large-scale, long-term changes in weather conditions and average temperature of the planet. [1]

According to NASA[2] the Earth's surface temperature was the hottest in 2016 since the beginning of observations in 1880. Globally, the average temperature in 2016 was 0.99 degrees Celsius higher than in the mid-20th century. If we observe a greater period of time, the average surface temperature of the planet has risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. Scientists have no doubt anymore[3] that this change is mainly due to the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide and other man-made emissions.

In this situation, the forecast for Ukraine could be the following:

In the case of business as usual, according to the World Bank, with no major changes in the economy or modes of production and consumption, the average temperature in Ukraine may rise by 3,2-4,5 degrees Celsius by 2100[4].

In this case, Ukraine awaits significant negative consequences primarily in the agriculture sector with increasing droughts, reduction of rainfall in the summer and peak temperatures (colder winters and hotter summers). It will have a negative impact on a number of crops and will require significant investments in the adaptation to climate change (e.g. irrigation technologies, projects for creating temperature changes resistant species, etc.). Overall, significant changes could be observed in seasonal events, such as early periods of flowering plants, and sudden cooling. These processes will have a negative impact on agriculture as well as on ecosystems as a whole.

Droughts and floods and other extreme weather events such as hurricanes are happening not only more frequent, but their devastating effects increase. Such nature disasters will become permanent, causing significant losses in the economy and threatening food security. Droughts and heatwaves, rainfall reduction in summer will also help to increase the frequency of forest fires and desertification of southern and south-eastern regions of Ukraine. In the context of floods the Carpathian mountain regions as well as the populated areas in the basins of the Dniester, Dnieper and smaller rivers are the most vulnerable. We have already experienced the floods on the Danube in 2005, on the Dniester in Transcarpathia in August 2008, the drought across Ukraine in 2007 and the record snowfall in western and central part of the country in March 2013.

At the same time the regions in the south of Ukraine may also suffer very likely due to the rising of the Black and Azov seas, which are part of the World ocean. For the last 100 years, world sea level[5] has risen by an average of 178 mm, and continues to rise at a speed of 3.4 mm per year. Scientists warn that Crimea could become an island due to the isthmus flooding. Similarly, a  significant part of Odessa could go under water. Vylkove village may disappear altogether. Part of Kherson and Mykolayiv regions could as well find themselves underwater. This situation may also lead to the issue of access to the water resources, including drinking water.

According to the findings of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Ukrainian Academy of Agrarian Sciences and the State Committee for Hydrometeorology, global warming in Ukraine will show itself through irreversible degradation of the Black Sea and Azov steppes and steppe part of Crimea as well as through reduced productivity of forests throughout Ukraine, including the spread of infectious plants diseases and pests. According to the  more pessimistic scenario, there will be a danger of migration from the south-eastern regions due to the deterioration in access to proper living conditions as a result of rapid changes in climate. There also may be a threat  of diseases spreading, which are not typical for Ukraine (malaria, dengue, etc.). According to the National Institute for Strategic Studies[6], the threat to biodiversity due to climate change will reveal itself through reduction of the number of useful species, changes in forests and fauna, soil degradation and changes in the species composition of soil flora and fauna.

Even with the reduction of resource consumption and rapid changes in the economy towards the development of a service and information economy with a decreased material intensity and the introduction of clean energy-saving technologies using renewable energy sources, according to the World Bank in Ukraine temperature will still increase by 2-3 degrees Celsius by 2100[7]. This level of warming still bears the risks listed above, only in somewhat smaller amplitudes and with less likeliness.

However, there is an alternative scenario, which allows to keep the rise in  temperature within 1,5 degrees Celsius[8] as well as mitigate climate change and its negative consequences. This scenario requires a transition to 100% renewable energy, radical reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the use of organic farming and reduction of livestock, forest and ecosystem conservation, changes in the transportation system, and most importantly - changes in the consumeristic minds, the constant enrichment and economic growth, which now prevails in Ukraine and the world.

To achieve this aim there is a Paris climate agreement which Ukraine signed and ratified in 2016. But at the time when the agreement became a call to action for all countries, Ukraine has decided to ignore the basic idea of the treaty - taking the commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Nationally defined contribution to reduce emissions submitted to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Ukraine plans to increase emissions by 2030. Currently, the official goal of Ukraine - is reducing emissions by 40%[9] regarding the level in 1990, which actually means increasing emissions by 40.7% by 2030 compared to 2012, because nowadays Ukraine emits 60% less greenhouse gases than in 1990.

Paris Agreement is the only document that defines Ukraine's international commitments on climate change. Thus, in the EU - Ukraine Association Agreement a large part of claims lies in the field of reducing emissions and regulating this sector in Ukraine. Ukraine is a member of the European Energy Community and must meet the requirements that it puts forward, particularly in terms of renewable energy and reduction of emissions.

Fossil fuel free Ukraine is very real. Moreover, to keep the temperature rise within 1,5 degrees Celsius all countries should move to 2050 with 100% renewable energy. Ukraine has a high potential in solar and wind energy sectors, as well as biomass of the second generation, which is enough to replace fossil fuels. According to the Greenpeace study[10], the transition to 100% renewable energy in Eastern Europe and Eurasia will create about 1.3 million additional jobs by 2030 and reduction to zero CO2 emissions from energy sector by 2050.

It is necessary now to set ambitious targets for renewable energy development, implement reduction programs for nuclear industry and abandon mining and burning of the coal, because there is less and less time for action. The longer we put off these decisions for the future, the more likely that climate change will take place in Ukraine as described in the first pessimistic scenario.











[10] -2015-Full.pdf

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