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Former Soviet bloc in firing line of climate change: World Bank

The Baltic Sea, the East Adriatic, the Black Sea and Arctic coasts will be affected by sea-level rise. In the Caspian Sea, though, water levels could drop by roughly six metres (20 feet) by the end of the 21st century because of increased evaporation.

UN urges focus on security implications of climate change
The UN General Assembly on Wednesday approved by consensus a resolution which for the first time turned the spotlight on the possible security implications of the adverse impact of climate change. The text, sponsored by 63 member states, calls on relevant UN bodies "to intensify their efforts in considering and addressing climate change, including its possible security implications." It directs UN chief Ban Ki-moon to submit a comprehensive report to the 192-member General Assembly at its next session beginning in September "on the possible security implications of climate change, based on the views of the member states and relevant regional and international organizations." The approval of the resolution capped a year-long campaign by a coalition of Pacific small island developing states to focus world attention on the devastating threats they face from climate change. "Climate change threatens our very existence," Nauru's UN Ambassador Marlene Moses, the group's current chair, said. "Islands are the canary in the coal mine. We are among the first to see the devastating effects climate change is having on our peoples, but we will not be the last," the envoy added. "It is vital that the (UN) Security Council and other organs of the UN urgently take up the security aspect of climate change." Small island states are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, which scientists project could increase by a meter or more by the year 2100. "With the Marshall Islands' height of only two meters above sea level, even the most conservative 2007 scientific projections of the chief UN scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, clearly shows with certainty threats to our national survival, with ensuing upheaval to our very land, or basic water and food security as well as the pillars of our traditional culture," the Pacific territory's UN ambassador told the assembly.
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) June 2, 2009
The countries of the former Soviet bloc face huge challenges in the next decade to avoid the worst ravages of climate change, the World Bank warned on Tuesday.

From Poland to Kazakhstan, from the Arctic circle to the Caucasus, nations face the likelihood of more frequent floods, droughts, heatwaves, storms and forest fires, it said.

But decrepit infrastructure and the legacies of Soviet mismanagement have left them fearfully under-equipped for coping with the threat, the bank said.

Contrary to popular belief, the region -- a term that covers all of the former Eastern Bloc, excluding East Germany, plus Turkey -- faces "significant threats" from climate change, according to the bank's report.

Average temperatures have already increased by 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) in the south and by 1.6 C (2.9 F) in the north, in Siberia.

The warming has led to more frequent summer droughts and rapid melting of winter snows and glaciers, which in turn have badly affected water supplies.

By the middle of this century, there is likely to be further warming of 1.1 C (2.0 F) in the south and 1.0 C (1.8 F C) in the north, amplifying the water crisis and exacerbating environmental problems, such as the shrinking Aral Sea.

The Baltic Sea, the East Adriatic, the Black Sea and Arctic coasts will be affected by sea-level rise. In the Caspian Sea, though, water levels could drop by roughly six metres (20 feet) by the end of the 21st century because of increased evaporation.

With few exceptions, the region is badly equipped to meet the threat, said the report.

Responding to climate change means being able to draw on a panoply of resources -- economic, human and environmental.

But the former Eastern Bloc countries are poor, have low awareness of climate change and suffer from shoddy housing and other infrastructure that will be badly exposed to weather extremes.

"Chronic environmental management" adds to the problems, said the report.

Wasteful irrigation systems, the plundering of groundwater and river diversion are among the causes for the region's vulnerability to water stress.

Albania, for instance, currently derives 97 percent of its electricity from hydro-electric plants, but cannot rely on it as a future source.

Then there are innumerable toxic dumps and dangerous Soviet-era plants that are located in exposed areas, the World Bank said.

It gave the example of a flood in Baia Mare, Romania, in 2000 that spewed cyanide-laced waste from a gold mine into the Tiza and Danube rivers, poisoning the water of two million people.

To those who contend that warming will open up farmland in the frozen Russian north, the report was skeptical. Inefficient agricultural systems meant that this potential could well remain unrealised.

The report said the impacts of climate change "will likely remain manageable over the next decade."

This would give the region a slender opportunity to beef up its defences, the document said, recommending it focus especially on changing water use, upgrading neglected infrastructure and improving disaster preparedness.

The report, "Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia," was issued on the sidelines of talks in Bonn under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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