Hungary braces itself for climate change

We have almost reached mid-year but judging by the weather in Central Europe at the moment we might be forgiven for thinking that summer is over and autumn upon us. This week even saw fresh snowfall in the region's higher altitudes. In recent summers, Central Europe has suffered extremes, from heat waves, to extremely icy spells, endless rain, and floods. Thousands of kilometres away, the frequent earthquakes in Asia, have also caught meteorologists' attention. Many experts say climate change is to blame for most of these disquieting natural phenomena. Gyorgyi Jakobi looks at how Hungary is coping with the change:

Photo: Radio Prague International
Climate change is the major challenge facing the world. A statement to that end was recently made by the world-famous naturalist, Sir David Attenborough. People sense the foreseeable danger but know rather little about what is being done in order to ease the situation. We asked researcher at REC, the Regional Environment Centre in Budapest, Zsuzsa Ivanyi, if Hungary had a climate change project at all:

"Yes, Hungary has two kinds of activities in the field of climate change. One of them is a joint project between the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Hungarian Ministry of Environment and Water Management, which is about the potential climate changes, the impacts and the responses to the changes. This project started three years ago and it is to be completed at the end of June and this is an important milestone in the field of climate policy and scientific research, because it summarises all kinds of activities in different fields and strives to draft the strategy on how to tackle the climate change issue. Unfortunately, it hasn't received much publicity."

Is this subject included in the school curriculum?

"As far as I know, it is not. But REC has developed a very interesting educational tool for schoolchildren that is called 'Green Pack'. It is a very basic methodology to educate them on how important environmental protection is and part of this is the issue of climate change. There are several schools in Hungary that have already adopted this methodology but the scope of the use of this Green Pack could be wider here in Hungary."

Erzsebet Beliczay, a senior member of the Air Action Group, agrees that the scope should be widened.

"We have projects and also a relatively high awareness of the threats of climate change. But on the other hand, the economic tools are very weak and we still consume much more than needed and there are many environmental subsidies that work against the mitigation of this problem. Many people think that the disappearing snow from the Kilimanjaro or the hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes on the coastal areas are far away from us."

..such as the earthquake in Indonesia...

"Yes, you can say that every month or every week there is a new natural catastrophe or a very serious accident somewhere in the world but far from us. But it is not true that we don't have these threats. In Paris, for example, in 2003, 14 000 people died because of the heat wave in the summer. We also have such heat waves and we have had them in the last few years. I think the right answer for climate change is to change our life and the things we produce."