Russia faces disease, drought from global warming: WWF
MOSCOW, July 8 (AFP) Jul 08, 2008
Russia faces an increase in disease, drought and damage to infrastructure because of climate change, the environmental group WWF said on Tuesday, urging the authorities to "take a lead" on the issue.
"We're very worried.... We have to act in time. Some regions of Russia need urgent attention," Alexei Kokorin, a WWF researcher and one of the authors of the report, said at a press conference in Moscow presenting a new study.
Drawing attention to an issue that is only beginning to be discussed in Russia, WWF said the authorities should press to reduce global emissions and adopt a strategy for dealing with the effects of climate change.
"We must understand that damage caused by climate change is here and now rather than a problem in the distant future.... There's a lot at stake, including our health," said Igor Chestin, head of WWF Russia.
Since coming to power last month, President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered measures to reduce by 40 percent the amount of energy Russia uses per unit of gross domestic product by 2020.
But the subject is still not part of general public debate in a country that benefits from high energy prices and whose economy has boomed in the past few years, improving the livelihoods of many.
The report warned warmer weather in spring was causing higher incidences of encephalitis, malaria and the West Nile virus in parts of this vast country.
Global warming and unpredictable weather also risked causing floods and droughts in southern regions, it added.
The report went on to say that melting Arctic permafrost was already damaging buildings and roads and could impact on energy infrastructure, as well as affect the livelihoods of native populations.