Climate change: How global warming threatens Ukraine

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) voiced a shocking forecast for Ukraine - according to its data, our country can soon lose up to 70% of the crop due to increasingly frequent droughts. talked with experts of the FAO and the head of agrometeorology department of the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center Tetiana Adamenko to find out what unpleasant surprises are to be expected, and also what can be done to avoid them
22:34, 7 May 2018

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112 Agency

The increase in the average annual temperature in Ukraine is ahead of the indicator observed in the world. If starting in 1961, the temperature on the planet increased by 0.8 degrees, in Ukraine this figure is about 1.1 degrees. In the next ten years, it is quite possible to increase it by another 0.2-0.5 degrees.

If earlier Ukraine was a moderately cold country with an average annual temperature of 7.8 degrees, now this figure has risen to plus 9 degrees, said Tetiana Adamenko.

Ukrainians already feel an increase in the number of days with extremely high air temperatures, the so-called "heat waves". "In the Kyiv region, the number of days with temperatures above 30 degrees earlier was about 10 per year, over the last decade this indicator increased to 20-30 days. In the Kherson region, the number of such days was 30-40, and now there are also 60-70".

The probability that this summer will be cool – is minimal, says Adamenko. "There is a clear tendency to increase the air temperature in the second half of July-August," she noted. Also, according to her, despite the heavy rainfall that was observed in Ukraine in March, the moisture reserves in the soil have already significantly decreased. In the southern regions, in particular in the Kherson region, we are already witnessing the beginning of a soil drought.

Frosts in summer and thaw in winter

The most damaging for agriculture are the shock changes that occur due to global warming, said coordinator of development programs of the FAO in Ukraine Mykhailo Malkov: "Look what happens, a month ago it was snowing, and then literally in a week we received plus 20 degrees. Significant areas of the fields were covered by cracks, which occurs when there is a strong temperature fluctuation, and the cracks create considerable difficulties in carrying out fieldwork. "

We observed shocking phenomena in September last year when the temperature rose to 35 degrees. The extremal temperatures corresponded to the July indicators. Also, we remember last year's frosts in April and May, when fruit trees were already in full bloom. Then Ukraine lost a significant part of the harvest of fruit trees, berries, and vegetables, adds Adamenko. "We entered a period when we will no longer suffer from global warming, but from climate variability (sharp changes - heat, frosts), which is its direct consequence," she says.

As is known, the terms of sowing work were reduced this year because of the fact that in March the fields were still covered with snow. "Due to the short seeding time, some regions were forced to adjust the area of spring barley planting, the end of March and the beginning of April is considered optimal for its sowing. In the current situation, when the fields were still in snow and the sowing time was shifted, it was clear, that the period of the vegetation of barley may decrease, and this will, of course, lead to a sharp reduction in the yield indicators," noted Adamenko.

Agriculture will require more water

At the current rate of increase in the average annual temperature, the efficiency of precipitation will decrease. Within next 10 years, Ukraine may face the phenomenon of increasing aridity. "We are still observing this, but while this is a phenomenon of increasing droughts, and in 10-15 years we can face the problem - in the south of Ukraine rainfed agriculture will be impossible at all because of insufficient moisture in the soil," predicts Adamenko.

According to her, there is also a threat of the transition of the forest-steppe zone, which is a zone of unstable moisture supply, into the steppe zone. In general, 70% of the territory of Ukraine can become a zone of insufficient moisture supply in a particular period of the year. At the forefront of this situation will be the problem of the need to provide irrigation.

Droughts will also be observed in areas for which they were not essential. "We already observed this in 2010, in 2015, when the drought in the second half of the summer was observed on the territory of Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Volyn regions, which has never happened before." Another thing is that, fortunately, it happened in the second half of summer, when the harvest of early grain crops was already formed and the losses were not large and affected only late crops, "said Adamenko.

The invasion of beetles and the threat to forests

As a result of global warming, the number of generations of forest pests increases. "If earlier some types of insects harmed the forests during the life of 1-2 generations, now they are doing it for 3-4. Plus they are spreading very actively. According to some forecasts, Ukraine may lose its pine forests in the foreseeable future", says the leading expert of the FAO on climate change Tamara Kutonova.

“The foresters from the Zhytomyr region addressed us, they are concerned with such a problem as the bark beetle, the beetle literally destroys their plantations. In the Zhytomyr region, the development of spring processes is now happening an average of one month earlier than 30 years ago. These beetles begin their activity a month earlier. And, naturally, with such a warm September, as it often happens in recent years, they, starting from the middle of March and before freezing, manage to multiply," adds Adamenko.

According to her, the same situation is observed with other pests, in particular, ticks and Colorado beetle, which now hibernates at a shallower depth. This means that they can rise from the soil to the surface much faster than before.

FAO ascertains and forecasts an increase in demand for plant protection products.

Due to climate change, forests are also more likely to suffer from wind and fires.

Disappearance of rivers and weed fish

Despite the temperature increase, the average annual flow of the main Ukrainian rivers - Dnipro, Dnister, Siversky Donets, Pivdennyi Bug - remains unchanged, says Kutonova: "However, the frequency and strength of floods and low water levels increases." Also a very serious issue, according to the expert, is that as a result of global warming a number of small rivers may disappear. "During the droughts of the previous years, we observed that many small rivers disappeared, they had neither rain nor groundwater, which is a big problem, because small rivers for large rivers are as important as capillaries for the blood supply of the entire body. The negligent attitude of some agrarians to small rivers and ponds may lead to a decrease in the number of rivers in Ukraine," she said.

What can help?

Climate change, which we are now observing, is largely anthropogenic - only up to 30% are associated with natural changes, 70% are dependent on human activity, says Mykhailo Malkov. According to him, agriculture also contributes to climate change due to the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases occur. In the total volume of emissions for agriculture, Ukraine accounts for 14%.

"If we talk about forests, they have a unique property, they are sinks of greenhouse gases, but aging, degrading forests produce quite a lot of greenhouse gases themselves. The same is true for soils, if they are properly looked after, they absorb greenhouse gases, with incorrect management, on the contrary, they emit greenhouse gases, "adds Kutonova.

"Climate change is one of the most important factors for the FAO due to the fact that this phenomenon has a direct impact on the sustainable management of agriculture and provision of food for the planet's inhabitants," Malkov said.

For Ukraine, the FAO developed a draft strategy on climate change for agriculture, forestry, and fisheries until 2030. One of the components of this document, which goes as an annex, is the program for implementing this strategy until 2023. "The document is ready, now it is at the stage of the agreement; it contains an updated risk assessment. We also made expert assessments of risks and vulnerabilities for crop production, livestock, fisheries, forestry, and we analyzed the spread of diseases due to climate change for all these four main sub-sectors of the Ukrainian economy, conducted a study of small farms in the context of climate change and prepared recommendations for them mainly on adaptation to such changes. We worked out recommendations on how to carry out activities to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions, "said Kutonova.

One of the proposals of the FAO is to make changes in the logic of state support for farmers. "We suggest that the state add certain factors to the mechanism of support in order not to allow agro-producers destroying natural resources to receive subsidies on an equal basis with those who keep agriculture efficiently and carefully. If a person uses bad agrochemistry, does not implement resource-saving technologies, does not observe crop rotation, he should not be stimulated by state support," Malkov said.

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