Georgia

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 30th Mar 2011

Map of Georgia: Source CIA factbook Map of Georgia: Source CIA factbook



This climate analysis was produced as a contribution to an Environment and Climate Change Policy Brief prepared for the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA) by the Environmental Economics Helpdesk at the University of Gothenburg


Current Climate and Hazards

Despite its small size the climate of Georgia is very varied from west to east with annual temperatures on the Black Sea coast of 14-15C and precipitation that ranges from 1500-2500mm, whereas on the plains in Eastern Georgia annual temperatures are 11-13C and precipitation is only 400-600mm/year. Floods and drought are the major climatological hazards in the country. Floods are reported as killing more people, but drought affects far more people and causes greater economic damages, for example a large drought in 2000 affected 700,000 people and caused damages of 5.6% of GDP due to its effects on agriculture and on hydro-power generation


Trends and Projections

Trends reported in the National Communication show that average temperatures in Tblisi increased by 0.7C over the last century and by 0.5C in Eastern Georgia but that there was a slight cooling in Western Georgia. Precipitation has increased in the lowland areas of Georgia by around 10-15% but has decreased in mountain areas by 15-20%. Floods have become more frequent in the west of the country.

Annual temperatures are set to increase by 2.6-5.2C by 2081-2100 (the median response across the models is 3.7C), with the greatest increase occurring in summer. The IPCC reports a slight decrease in average annual precipitation, however there is a large spread in results between different models so this should be treated with caution. There is a robust signal for drying in Spring (MAM) and Summer (JJA), which appears to be around 10-15% although there is again a large range in the extent of drying the models are projecting. The complexity of Georgia's climate means that there are likely to be regional differences in the changes experienced, for example warming is likely to be greatest at higher altitudes, and there are indications that annual precipitation may increase in the west and decrease in the east thus exacerbating regional differences.
Rising temperatures mean that there are likely to be more frequent heatwaves in summer and that there will be fewer extreme cold events in winter. The intensity of precipitation is expected to increase.


Impacts

Agriculture is a key sector for Georgia, providing income for over a third of Georgian households. Climate change will impact on agriculture in a in a complex way. On the one hand agriculture in Georgia may benefit from a longer growing season due to warmer temperatures, however changes in run-off and evapo-transpiration may cause decreases in yield, for example Parry et al. (2004) find that there may be a 5% decrease in cereal yields to 2050 . Rational water management and allocation, as well as strong drought plans, are the key if Georgia is to take advantage of warmer temperatures to increase yields.

The severe drought of 2000 caused wheat yields to decline by 56% compared to 1999, with a severe impact on household food security in affected areas and on the efforts of rural communities to escape from poverty. The combination of glacier melt and earlier snowmelt causing a reduction in summer run-off, higher rates of evapo-transpiration due to increased temperatures and the projected spring and summer decrease in precipitation makes droughts such as that of 2000 more likely to occur.

Georgia is unlikely to face an overall shortage of water, but changes in precipitation may exacerbate the differences between the east and the west (where 75% of water resources are currently found). The water infrastructure is only slowly recovering from neglect in the post-Soviet era, and will require strong investment in order to maintain supply. Earlier snowmelt will increase the risk of spring flooding, and the increase in intensity of rainfall will also increase the likelihood of flash flooding. More frequent droughts will impact on hydropower generation, for example the drought of 2000 reduced energy generation by 20% and caused power shortages even in the capital Tblisi

Temperature increases will be greater at higher altitudes and are expected to increase pressure on bio-diversity in the Caucasus Mountains, which are a world hotspot of bio-diversity with a high percentage (25%) of endemic species. Species with slow dispersal rates, or that are adapted to niche alpine environments are likely to be most affected . Climate change will also add to the stresses that Georgia's forests are experiencing. The picture for human health is mixed; there will be a decrease in mortality from extreme cold, but an increase in heat-related health problems, and the incidence of vector-borne diseases such as Malaria may rise. Sea-level rise will be an issue along the Black Sea coast, in particular in central areas where land subsidence is occurring.


Adaptation

In order to minimise any adverse impacts of climate change, as well taking advantage of potential opportunities such as a longer growing season, Georgia will need to actively pursue adaptation measures. There is currently a low level of integration of climate change issues into Georgia's national and sectoral plans (such as the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Plan), which is driven by a low general awareness of environmental issues and a lack of appreciation of the linkages between climate change and economic and social development . Poor groups, and those who are marginalised and lack access to decision-making processes (such as the IDPs) are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they have limited adaptive capacity. Particular focus should thus be paid to enabling these groups to adapt.

There are various specific measures that could be taken in Georgia to adapt to climate change, for example the adoption of drought resistant cultivars in agriculture, however the focus at present should be at the institutional level. Building institutional capacity, integrating climate change into national and sectoral planning documents and raising public awareness of climate change as a major issue are important steps towards building the necessary political will and ability to adapt. There is a particular need for improved early warning and response to drought. The implementation of environmental legislation also needs to be improved, as does coordination between local and national decision-makers . It is to be hoped that the ongoing process of preparing the 2nd National Communication on Climate Change to the UNFCCC acts to raise awareness within government, and that its results are reflected in future national plans.

In addition there are many more general issues that are raised elsewhere in this brief, such as addressing land degradation and deforestation, improving the water infrastructure and reducing stresses on biodiversity that would reduce Georgia's vulnerability to climate change. One specific area in need of investment is the network of hydrological and meteorological observing stations, the number of which has declined sharply since 1991 . These are vital for early warning for droughts and floods, as well for long-term monitoring of how climate is changing, and it would be of great benefit to repair and restore the network.


Energy and Mitigation

For 2006 Georgia had total emissions of 4.61Mt, which equates to 1.04tonnes/capita and compares to emissions of 5.7t/capita for Central and Eastern Europe and 4.28t/capita for the world . Georgia is not bound to any emissions reductions under the current phase of the Kyoto Protocol. There is potential for Georgia to benefit from investment in clean technology under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), such as the Landfill Gas Capture and Power Generation project being implemented in Tblisi, which aims to reduce emissions by 72,700 tonnes/CO2 /year. This is currently the only CDM project operational in the country, however, compared to five in neighbouring Armenia, suggesting that Georgia could improve its capacity to attract CDM projects.

Hydropower accounts for the majority of Georgia's energy production, however, energy needs to be imported to meet the country's needs. There is great potential to expand hydropower and set up a strong wind power sector; however, at present the regulatory environment is not conducive to the setting up of renewables (with the exception of small hydropower plants) . Expanding renewable energy would increase Georgia's energy security without increasing its emissions of carbon dioxide.



References

  • Christensen, J.H. et al. (2007): Regional Climate Projections. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
  • International Energy Agency (2008) Indicators for Georgia [1]
  • National Climate Research Centre (1999): Georgia's Initial National Communication Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • Parry, M.L. et al. (2004) Effects of climate change on global food production under SRES emissions and socio-economic scenarios. Global Environmental Change 14 pp 53-67
  • Transparency International Georgia, May 2008. National Policy of Georgia on Developing Renewable Energy Sources. Funded by BP Georgia.
  • UNDP (2004) Common Country Assessment: Georgia.
  • UNFCCC (2009) Clean Development Mechanism Pipeline. [2]
  • World Bank (2006) Drought Management and Mitigation Assessment for Central Asia and the Caucasus: Regional and Country Profiles and Strategies.