Exploring climate impacts at high latitudes - An AVOID 2 workshop in Russia

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Exploring climate impacts at high latitudes – An AVOID 2 workshop in Russia

March 19, 2015

Representatives from the AVOID 2 programme had a very successful meeting with colleagues from Roshydromet, the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, in Russia on 19 March to discuss the risks, impacts and costs associated with climate change, together with the options for adaptation and mitigation.

The workshop, hosted by the UK Embassy in Russia, was organised to facilitate the scientific cooperation necessary to address the challenges of climate change. Better understanding of the scale and nature of both the global and local risks from climate change is vital to informing a coordinated global response to the challenge.

Recent evidence from the IPCC’s fifth assessment report and AVOID shows that impacts from projected climate change will include increased water stress, flooding, heat-waves, food insecurity and ocean acidification. Russia has already experienced many impacts of climate change in the last decade including retreating Arctic ice, melting permafrost, and extreme floods and forest fires.

The workshop provided a forum where leading UK and Russian experts could share their existing research and explore how to work together to further understanding of the drivers and impacts of climate change.

Information from the AVOID programme on the global consequences of climate change and climate mitigation was presented at the workshop. Research into global-scale impacts and risk within the AVOID 2 programme builds on the findings of the first AVOID programme, which showed that limiting the rise in global mean temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial reduces, but does not eliminate, the impacts of climate change. Across a range of sectors between 20% and 70% of impacts which would be experienced in a 4°C world can be avoided by limiting global warming to 2°C. Some impacts will not be avoided even by limiting warming to 2°C, meaning that adaptation will be required alongside mitigation. Current AVOID 2 research is concentrating on an integrated assessment that pulls together climate risks, economics, technological and other research outputs to assess plausible emissions trajectories associated with different levels of warming.

Professor Jason Lowe, Chief Scientist for the AVOID 2 programme, commented that:
“The changing climate is a global issue but, as we saw during this workshop, it has local consequences for people, infrastructure and natural system. The latest scientific result, which we discussed, show that limiting global average warming can avoid many of the most serious local impacts and buy time for adaptation when the impacts are not avoided.”

Roshydromet set out the findings of their Second Assessment Report on Climate Change and its Consequences in the Russian Federation, including risks and opportunities posed by climate change to the Russian Federation. The report shows that there has been widespread warming across the country, and at a greater rate than the global average, but changes in rainfall have not been uniform across the region. There is also a seasonal variation in some of the regional changes in climate. Impacts of climate change on health, agriculture, infrastructure, forests and river flooding were highlighted.

Discussions also focused on the potential for climate change to be amplified by processes occurring at high latitudes, such as the melting of permafrost. This is a major issue for Russia as a significant proportion of its territory is situated on permafrost, and some of this is likely to thaw. Attendees explored current understanding of the mechanisms involved and the potential consequences of amplified warming at global and local scales.

In order to avoid dangerous climate change, it is important to communicate the risks and opportunities of future climate change beyond the scientific community, and this workshop also aimed to raise awareness among decision makers of the importance of effective global action. Researchers had the opportunity to engage with attendees representing UK and Russian government organisations.

The workshop finished with agreement to continue to develop ideas for future collaborative scientific work on climate change. This will include incorporating some of the Russian regional analysis into AVOID 2 assessments of global impacts.

Commenting on future plans Professor Jason Lowe said: “An exciting aspect of the workshop was comparing the approaches taken by UK and Russian experts to assess climate change. I look forward to exploring how we can further share this climate expertise in the AVOID 2 programme and beyond”

Find out more about AVOID 2 research on local and global impacts