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London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Copenhagen and Antwerp might sink by the middle of the century. The recent climate change study quoting vice-president of the International Expert Group on Climate Change Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, says the recent floods in the UK are just a first sign of dramatic changes threatening the world. Heavy floods, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis – we have seen it all in different parts of the world, and the scale of cataclysms is only growing. Aleksei Kokorin, Climate and Energy Programme Director at the World Wildlife Fund Russia, talked with the Voice of Russia about the evolving crisis.
How would you comment on the recent findings saying a large part of Europe will be flooded by the middle of the century?
There are two effects, and these effects are different. One is sea level rise. It is very dangerous for coastal areas, however, by the end of the century this is maximum one meter. One meter or a bit more could be in tropical areas, and for small coral reefs, for small islands it is full catastrophe, of course. But for Europe it means that all dense of Amsterdam or all infrastructure should be reconstructed to keep one meter more, but only one meter.
Another effect is more frequency, more severe precipitation – floods due to precipitation. It is another effect, which is not so well predicted and calculated as sea level rise, and it is possibly only to be told that first water will be high by 3 or maybe 5 times by the end of the century. It means that flood, which was once in 20 years will be each 7 years or each 4 years in 20 years.
These are two different effects, and the both are directly relevant to the so-called global warming and anthropogenic impact on climate system. However, keep in mind that tsunami is not relevant to anthropogenic effect and some terrible heat waves like Moscow heat wave of 2010 is also not so relevant to anthropogenic climate change.
Do you think we can still prevent it from happening?
Of course, people are thinking about next century. When we speak about 22nd century, by the end of 22nd century the level rise could be 3 meters, what is significantly more dangerous for many European cities, as you mentioned, London, Amsterdam and some others. If you think about more, if you think about millennium, scientists according to recent ITCC report underlined that sea level rise from 5 to 10 meter is not excluded. It is a very difficult condition, it is very serious, however, it is not global catastrophe. But it is very costly, it is very serious. Therefore, the final appeal is completely correct while argumentations are sometimes too nervous, or too radical.
What about the politics of climate change debate, how do political issues affect the discussion?
There is a big political effect. The scientists and sea level rise and hurricanes indicate that more than a hundred states are most vulnerable, more sensitive to climate change. However, they don’t have money, they don’t have funds. Largest countries including the US and China have smaller vulnerability or sensitivity to climate change. Therefore, we see so-called political egoism, political or ecological egoism. The most rich countries, which are less sensitive to climate impacts, to climate shots, try to balance or to be so-called flexible in emissions while more than 100 weakest and more sensible countries will be maybe destroyed.