On Monday, October 4, the very first ethnic Armenian, Ardem Patapoutian, won a Nobel Prize in Medicine. The entire Armenian nation will now see the highest scientific honor in a different light… with a sense of being more “involved” in Big Science, and immense well-deserved pride after decades of unjust understatement Armenian scientists and engineers (Hambartsoumian, Markarian, Damadienne….).
A day later, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three scientists, including jointly to Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann “for the physical modeling of the Earth’s climate, the quantification of variability and the reliable prediction of global warming”.
This Nobel Prize can be seen as another warning from the scientific community to the world to raise public awareness of the threat of global warming.
Prior to that, in 2007, the IPCC, along with former US Vice President Al Gore, had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to accumulate and disseminate better knowledge of human-induced climate change, and to lay the groundwork for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.
COP26 (the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change), which has just ended in Glasgow, brought together world leaders and scientists for two weeks… and did not deliver good news, auguring complicated future hazards .
As for the previous COP, all the texts signed by the leaders remain only objectives and intentions, not binding agreements and are therefore highly dependent on the local crises that each country will face… None of the major producers of CO2, in the first place China and India, do not want to make costly energy transitions to reduce their emissions.
Global warming is a reality, it is known and scientists have been warning us for decades, but these warnings have been skillfully suppressed by different lobbies and the ignorance of political leaders, but nowadays it can no longer be avoided, denied or underestimated in the eyes of the public.
Climate change is evident in almost every aspect of the climate: steadily increasing average temperature around the globe, rising sea levels, shrinking ice caps in the Arctic, Greenland and glaciers here and there, increasing statistics of extreme weather events (tornadoes, heavy rains, heat waves,…)….
The list is very long.
The consequences of global warming are there, and they will be for decades to come. We can sum it up for the southern Black Sea area (Greek Peninsula and Anatolia) and the Caucasus with this simple statement: more hot weather and less rainwater.
We will have to deal with it, especially since the objective of limiting the increase in global warming to +1.5°C is becoming unrealistic. The current trend points to +2.5°C, despite the good will and press releases from most delegations. Some countries do not want to lose any place in the race for power.
The northern hemisphere suffers much more from global warming, with an actual thermal anomaly reaching up to +6°C compared to the end of the 19th century, especially in the Arctic, Eurasia and Canada see average temperatures increase significantly.
The current situation presents a very inhomogeneous temperature change around the globe.
Armenia, due to its size, industrial and human activity does not contribute significantly to the production of CO2, accounts for only 0.01% of global emissions in the world, the other South Caucasus countries have correlated production, and changing their CO2 emissions policy won’t change the global trend, but can achieve many local improvements.
In any case, as usual, forecasting the problems to come could help these countries to minimize their consequences.
First, we need to identify what are the known future trends for the South Caucasus and Black Sea region, and even a little further, because the global scientific community has enough feedback and can rely on robust measurements and modeling.
Precipitation is expected to change drastically in the Caucasus region with about 20% less average precipitation expected, especially in spring and summer. This trend extends to the entire Mediterranean area, which is densely populated, leading to enormous water management problems with unexpected and dramatic consequences.
“Voski tapigor” (it’s falling gold) my grandfather used to say when it was raining, today people are fighting for fresh water. This water conflict is expected to intensify in the near future, as the densely populated area around the Mediterranean Sea is likely to suffer from water scarcity.
Since the beginning of the 2000s, the trend clearly shows a drastic increase in the average temperature and a decrease in terms of average precipitation for Armenia:
The consequences of both effects in small areas with limited alternatives can be critical, with significant impacts, particularly on agriculture. A single example is the production of wines that have begun to be well recognized and appreciated around the world, following the longest tradition in the world of winemaking in the world.
For example, with a higher temperature, the grapes produce more sugar, consequently increasing the alcohol level after fermentation, covering all the delicacy and flavors of the wine.
A water deficit due to rainfall will force us to dig deeper and deeper to access groundwater. Lake Sevan could also be under tremendous stress from reduced rainfall as it directly powers many small hydroelectric plants downstream and agricultural fields.
Water management is likely to become a critical issue for decades to come… The sooner Armenia deals with this problem, the better we can meet the needs of the population.
A good way to facilitate water management, especially of Lake Sevan or any other large lake in the southern Caucasus, supplying most of the downstream irrigation, would be to better control small hydropower plants, and can -be to complete some of them with solar panels or wind turbines. conveniently located to overcome the losses of hydroelectric plants.
Planting trees could help control local temperature, especially in cities, as they provide shade during increasingly hot summers and reduce soil evaporation elsewhere. In other areas, they also retain drainage water, preventing soil erosion.
Close to Armenia, the Caspian Sea, the largest inland saltwater lake in the world, in industrial exploitation for more than a century, is also in great danger, and could unfortunately experience the same dramatic fate as the sea of ‘Aral, today almost extinct. now.
The increase in water evaporation from this closed sea, together with a slight decrease in the water fed by the Volga, has induced an observable water level loss in recent years.
Falling water levels, along with the coming environmental disaster, are also beginning to cause technical problems for offshore operating platforms, with costly updates and necessary rebuilds.
Since 1995, the Caspian Sea has lost about 2 m, and by the end of the 21st century, the drop in water level is expected to reach 10 to 20 m, restricting many marine and port activities, and of course industry some fishing.
The Garabogazköl area in the eastern part of the Caspian Sea could totally and permanently disappear, as it did between 1984 and 1992.
The entire northern part of the Caspian Sea is slowly drying up.
The oil and gas industry will also change a lot of this water loss, as some gas and oil rich areas in the northern part will become easier to obtain.
Off Baku, oil rigs will soon have to adapt to the ever-dropping water level, at great cost.
Since the South Caucasus countries are developing, with critical geostrategic problems, we cannot offer all the advanced technologies to deal with global warming, even if no country in the world will experience this development smoothly.
Nevertheless, the more people and leaders have a good overview of the dangers ahead, the sooner we will be able to manage them, the better we will deal with them.
Author: Robert DANIELIAN is a Franco-Armenian physicist who graduated from the University of the Sorbonne.
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