Monday, December 21, 2009

Stockholm Environment Institute looks at climate change in Armenia...

The UNDP Armenia has released a thorough and alarming study conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute on The Socio-Economic Impact of Climate Change in Armenia. The 130-page report was written by Elizabeth A. Stanton, Frank Ackerman, and Flavia Resende, who are highly respected experts in the field of environmental economics.

The study points out that climate change will have far-reaching effects on social and economic life, and the ability for people to adapt will depend on whether or not funding will be available to support adaptive policy measures and how quickly these policies can be implemented. “Armenia’s future economic development will depend on the decisions that the current generation makes about investments in adaptation [to climate change],” warns the report.

According to this UNDP study, national scenarios forecast an increase to Armenia’s average annual temperature to be 4.5 degrees C in the lowlands and 7 degrees C in the highlands over the next century. Average annual precipitation is expected to decrease by as much as 9 percent, with the biggest reductions predicted for Yerevan and the Ararat Valley, which can expect 30 percent less precipitation by 2100. Higher temperatures will lead to more evaporation which means less soil moisture and reductions of up to 24 percent in river flows, which will reduce the availability of water for agriculture and power generation.

On an optimistic note, the experts from the Stockholm Environment Institute point out that many of the best available climate adaptation policy measures can be important for Armenia’s economic development. These include improving water and power generation infrastructure, integrating climate adaptation in plans for economic development and energy production, planning for more efficient use of resources in the context of growth and higher rates of consumption, and considering the needs and vulnerabilities of rural and low income households.

“Unless quick action is taken on large-scale adaptation measures, it is unlikely that Armenian families, their livelihoods, or their economy will be unscathed by climate change. Armenia’s poor and especially its rural poor populations will be particularly vulnerable,” warn the authors. “Social impacts will include an increased incidence of illness from heat waves as temperatures rise, a shortage of water and an increase to electricity tariffs as competing needs collide, food shortages or increased food prices as agricultural productivity falters, and an increased incidence of dangerous and damaging landslides, mudflows, and floods as dry soil and deforestation coincide with extreme storms.”

UNDP representative Dirk Boberg points out that this report is a pilot process undertaken by UNDP in only a few countries. He indicates that the priority sectors for adaptation to the impacts of climate change are water, agriculture, energy, and forests. “[This study] provides economic analysis and recommendations for decision-makers that need to manage the impacts of climate change by minimizing negative impacts and maximizing adaptation opportunities,” he writes in the foreword to The Socio-Economic Impact of Climate Change in Armenia.