The former countries of the Soviet Union are severely suffering from climate change, and the effects are worsened by environmental mismanagement and the lingering ill effects of the Soviet era, the World Bank said in a report released Tuesday.
The report contradicts predictions that warmer weather would benefit the agriculture-based economies of countries like Russia, Ukraine and the Central Asia Republics.
The report released at U.N. climate negotiations forecast the area will be hit by more frequent drought and floods, and the effects of rising temperatures and sea levels will be heightened by unsuitable Soviet-era construction, poorly planned agriculture and shoddy infrastructure.
The vast area "is vulnerable to climate change, and the vulnerability is driven by the legacy of the Soviet era," said World Bank economist Marianne Fay who co-authored the report.
The former republics are ill-equipped to adapt to climate changes, including melting permafrost that will undermine towns and villages, shrinking glaciers that threaten water supplies, and greater rainfall with an increased risk of flooding because of poor management of land and river basins, the report said.
From the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic, rising sea levels will endanger heavily populated coastal areas with storm surges and will poison water supplies with sea water, while the landlocked Caspian Sea will drop 18 feet because of surface evaporation by the end of this century.
Average temperatures have increased in the last century by 1 degree in the south and by 2.9 degrees in Siberia. By mid-century, Poland and Hungary will have as many hot days as Sicily and summer heat waves across the zone will claim more lives, it said. In the north, the number of days of frost will decline to 14 days from 30 days per year, it predicted.
The area has recorded 40 to 60 natural disasters in the last decade, where previously incidents of such extreme events were rare, Fay said, briefing reporters.
While the economic costs so far have been difficult to assess, Fay said, "unmistakably things have changed" compared with previous decades.