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Will the regions of the Urals suffer from climate change – Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Young Russian scientists as part of an international research group analyzed the impact of extremely high and low temperatures on the economy of Russian regions and came to the conclusion that global warming is already having a negative effect on it. And we are not talking about damage from large-scale natural disasters and serious investments in decarbonization. This is yet to come, but for now the most vulnerable to weather surprises is the working person.

Earlier, Vladimir Otrashchenko, a researcher at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen, and Olga Popova, an associate at the Leibniz Institute for Eastern and Southeastern European Studies, associate professor at the Ural Federal University, found that a prolonged increase in temperatures increases mortality and has a criminogenic effect. Now young researchers have analyzed the impact of heat and frost on the economy. Olga Popova told RG what regions will be the most vulnerable with what we will have to face in the coming years, which regions will be the most vulnerable and how can businesses and authorities prepare for this.

Olga, what is the uniqueness of your scientific work?

Olga Popova: Previous studies on the economic impact of extreme temperatures have focused primarily on the issue at the country level. We went down to the regions. Another feature is that we analyze the impact on the economy of not only single days with unusually hot or frosty weather, but also long – at least three days – waves of heat and cold. This is also the first time in world practice.

You relied on information from Rosstat and Roshydromet for 2000-2015 – this is a huge amount of data. But if weather data can be found for every day and even hour, how can it be compared with economic indicators?

Olga Popova: There is a technique. We aggregate daily summaries of weather stations by region using statistical approaches. As a result, we get some averaged figures for each region, and then we turn the daily data into annual data: we count how many days a year in a certain region there were abnormally high or low temperatures (below -23 ° or above + 25 ° С). In some years, there are more sharp temperature jumps, in some – less, or they are shorter. Further, this picture must be superimposed on economic indicators. We used an integrated approach: we considered how the temperature affects the gross regional product (GRP), the distribution of incomes by population groups, the poverty level, and the economic inequality of regions. In addition, it was compared with data on unemployment and the structure of employment in various industries. Many indicators have been used.

The past summer in our region turned out to be extremely hot, and atypically high temperatures lasted for an unusually long time, even there was a feeling that we do not live in the Urals, but in a more favorable climate.

Olga Popova: Climatic changes are taking place, and every year there will be more and more such abnormally warm seasons. Previously, in the Urals and Siberia, winters were colder and summers cooler. Now the winters are getting warmer and almost every summer will be hot. Note that the average number of days with temperatures above + 25 ° C in Russia has doubled over the past 20 years. The negative effect of this is already manifesting itself, because the economy is not yet ready for such climate changes.

What is the mechanism of the influence of extreme temperatures on GRP?

Olga Popova: First of all, they affect labor productivity and working time. High temperatures can have an impact on health, causing increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, etc. In extreme heat, cognitive abilities decrease, labor productivity decreases, both for those working in the open air and for those who work in an office or workshop. In extreme heat, another person will prefer not to work at all or to change the field of activity, that is, unemployment is growing. Another relationship: drought leads to crop failure, which affects food prices, and their growth leads to a drop in real incomes of the population. By the way, we also identified the following pattern: poor regions suffer from natural disasters more than rich ones.

Ten abnormally hot days a year lead to a drop in GDP per capita by almost two percent, which is a tangible damage

Our research has shown that a sequence of at least three extremely hot days (when the average daily temperature rises above + 25 ° C) negatively affects the gross domestic product (GDP): each subsequent such day reduces real GDP per capita by 0.19 percent … Thus, ten abnormally hot days a year lead to a drop in GDP per capita of almost two percent, which is considered a tangible damage. At the same time, individual sultry days do not have a noticeable effect on the regional economy: for such a period, economic activity does not stop.

Which regions of Russia are most affected by such natural phenomena?

Olga Popova: Everyone suffers, but in cold areas this is so far less pronounced. Thus, a noticeable increase in the number of hot days is observed in the Central, South, North Caucasian, Volga and Siberian federal districts, but in the North-West, Ural and Far Eastern federal districts, on average, there are no changes. Accordingly, in the Urals, the influence of warming on GRP is also less significant than in the southern regions. This is also connected with the structure of the economy: in the regions that are warm by Russian standards, there is more work in the open air and, naturally, they are more susceptible to the described phenomena. The northern regions are also affected, but less.

So the extreme heat hits the economy more than the cold? Why?

Olga Popova: People are better protected from cold temperatures: there are capital buildings, warm clothing, and there are regulations governing outdoor work in cold weather. In cold regions, early retirement, that is, older people do not work in such harsh conditions. But due to global warming, the cold temperatures are decreasing. It turns out that if Russia has any advantage in this regard, it will gradually be lost: a number of studies show that in Russia over the past decade, the increase in average temperatures is 2.5 times higher than on the planet as a whole – by 0.47 degrees versus 0.18.

However, the northern territories can partly even benefit from such influence, since the climate here becomes a little milder and more favorable. For example, our calculations show that extremely hot days can increase the flow of labor to relatively colder regions. Almost all regions of the Ural Federal District, except, perhaps, the Kurgan region, are just such – here the decline in GRP will be less pronounced, but migration to such regions will increase.

What role does the degree of urbanization of territories play?

Olga Popova: We did not consider this indicator in the study, but from previous works it is known that high temperatures are more difficult to endure in cities: buildings, asphalt accumulate heat, do not have time to cool down overnight after a hot day, there is less free air movement than in rural areas. This reduces labor productivity in urbanized areas.

The conclusions you made allow you to give any recommendations to the regional authorities, local business, how to reduce the negative impact of weather extremes?

Olga Popova: The economy, like a person, is able to adapt to climate change: there are more opportunities for air conditioning of premises, the use of energy-saving materials in the construction of buildings, deserted technologies are developing, etc. region like the Urals. Migration policy measures such as encouraging retraining may become more relevant. By the way, business owners in the long run are also able to redirect their resources to industries that are less vulnerable to temperature extremes.

Do not forget that economic activity is a priori associated with high carbon dioxide emissions, which is precisely what leads to global warming. Therefore, the transition to renewable energy, the introduction of energy-saving technologies, the modernization of production facilities will allow both to slow down the warming and adapt to it.

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