Extreme floods, no spruce forests? What the UN climate change report may mean for Czechia

The global climate is being changed in unprecedented and often irreversible ways by human activity, according to a major new United Nations report. But how are the changes affecting the Czech Republic and what lies ahead? According to leading Czech ecologists, effects could include an end to spruce forests and major floods at least once a decade.

The current scale of global warming is unprecedented in 2,000 years, and the period since 1850 was the warmest multi-century period in more than 100,000 years, according to scientific studies.

There is "unequivocal" evidence that humans are to blame for the increasing temperatures, which are likely to rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels within the next 20 years, according to the report by hundreds of experts working for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Source: Gerd Altmann,  Pixabay,  CC0

The UN publication has been making headlines across the world, with UN Secretary General António Guterres referring to it as “code red for humanity”. Its release comes just months ahead of this year’s UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in November.

According to a major Czech Radio survey conducted earlier this year, up to 86 percent of Czechs expect that climate change will change the world, with 39 percent saying they believe climate change will affect them directly.

Experts think the Czech Republic will be less-affected than countries with coastal regions or glaciers. However, some climate change effects are already visible now in Czech weather, Marie Šabacká of the Centre for Polar Ecology at the University of South Bohemia told Czech Radio.

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“The amount of sea ice in the Arctic has already declined by 50 percent, and this also has a partial effect on the weather in the Czech Republic. Last year, there were extremely low levels of ice in the Arctic, which in turn caused us to have a lot of snow in March and April.

“This was caused by the movement of cold air from the Barents Sea, which was not covered by ice. Due to the lack of ice, the sea was not protected. This in turn led to the release of a lot of humidity into the atmosphere which then fell on Europe.”

If the international community fails to act to prevent the rise of global temperatures by up to 2 degrees Celsius, it would mean that the average temperature in the Czech Republic would rise by 4 degrees Celsius, according to Marie Šabacká.

“This is because our country’s climate has already risen by 2 degrees since the beginning of the industrial age. The primary consequence of this would be more extreme weather.

“That means heat waves, floods, droughts and potentially also fires. Floods that previously occurred once in a 100 years would now appear once every 10 years, or even more frequently.

Photo: Radio Prague International

“There would also be more tropical days during the year – days when temperatures are above 30 degrees Celsius. At the same time, there would be fewer days where the temperature falls below zero.”

Meanwhile, the director of the Facts on Climate Change (Fakta o klimatu) initiative, Ondráš Přibyla, told news site Aktuálně.cz that one of the irreversible changes will include the collapse of the Czech spruce forests.

Both experts agree that every decimal point counts in the fight against global warming. For example, Marie Šabacká says that if the global climate were to rise just by one decimal point above the 1.5 degree Celsius level, it would mean the definitive end for the world’s coral reefs.