The biggest challenges Northern Europe, Latvia included, can expect from climate change in the next five to ten years are heat waves and other extreme weather events, such as floods, according to experts from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
IPPC representative Otto Portner and Diana Urge Vorsatz do not hide the fact that climate change is a global challenge for the entire world. This is exactly the reason why Northern Europe can expect heat waves and other natural occurrences. «Average air temperature has already increased by one degree. Although this increase may seem insignificant, such a belief is misleading, because even when a person’s body temperature increases by one degree – it means a person is getting sick,» says Vorsatz.
According to her, the main weapon in the fight against natural disasters is technological development to help humans adapt. Other measures include changing how we work, produce and consume products.
As for what Latvian residents can do in their everyday lives to reduce climate change, expects say the two main fields in need of changing include house management and transport sectors.
Latvia is located in the north. Because of that, most emissions come from houses and their heating systems. Transports are the second major source of CO2 gas. «People should reconsider their actions in these sectors. We can build and improve existing houses in a way to expend the least amount of energy on keeping them warm. Many municipalities in Eastern Europe are able to do this and they build houses that preserve 90% of heating energy. Even public buildings should be made more energy efficient,» says Portner.
Vorsatz says it is also important to halt artificial cooling by planting trees that would cast shadows and help buildings cool down naturally. Another way to do this is building houses from while materials. Using air conditioners only contributes to the problem.
«The more people walk, drive bicycles or use public transports, the better off the climate will be. When preparing meals, it is best to pick vegetables instead of meat, because meat production increases greenhouse gas emissions,» researchers say.
According to them, influencing politicians is also an important matter because it is necessary to speed up approval of regulations that would allow people create self-reliant lifestyle. ‘I think we should stop using fossil fuels. This includes gas. Germany, for example, is already taking measures to replace fossil fuels with synthetic ones,’ says Vorsatz.
As for the Baltic Sea coast, Portner admitted that no major problems should arise in the next century or so. He did say that living near the coast is a matter of time and human decisions.
«If the number of extreme situations, such as storms, increases, it will mean increased challenge to preserve the coastline. Many coastlines in Northern Europe are now in a similar situation, and in this sense we are several decades ahead,» says the expert.
Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s parliamentary secretary Jānis Eglīts says that Latvia should improve its climate change adaptation policy. Now is the last moment for industries to reach an agreement in regards to realization of emission goals.
The ministry adds that current policies and measures are insufficient and non-compliance with emission goals will cause significant and immediate financial consequences. When asked why industries have yet to reach an agreement in regards to future actions and why «everything is left for the last moment», Eglīts said talks with industry representatives have been continuing for three years with each side wanting beneficial conditions for them personally.
«Unfortunately, in politics proposals are never accepted by all sides. Every industry fights for its own interests. We have to find the middle ground, which is not an easy task. For example, for farmers these changes affect the assortment of fertilizers they are used to. More often than not those products are more expensive, and not everyone is ready to make such steps,» explains Eglīts, adding that there is still half a year left for the document’s coordination and approval.
He reminds that climate change already affects residents day-to-day lives. As an example, he mentioned last year’s floods, which were the direct result of climate change. «2015 was the warmest in the last 93 years. This year’s May has been the warmest in the history of meteorological observations in Latvia,» said Eglīts.