The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent in Hungary, and within this mainly in certain regions (for example, the Great Plain). Parallel with global shifts in the climate, clear changes can also be detected in Hungary’s temperature and rainfall data. Over the past three decades (1975-2004), the daytime maximum temperature has climbed 2-3 °C. At the same time, there is an unambiguous trend towards a reduction in the annual rainfall, as indicated by the fact that of the 20 driest years on record, six of those years (30%) fell into the period after 1990. The random chance here would be 16%, in other words, the proportion of very dry years is nearly twice as frequent as one would reckon on with no climate change.
The European Union’s PRUDENCE programme provides an opportunity to generate a highly detailed forecast of expected temperatures and rainfall in the Hungary (Carpathian Basin) region for the 2071-2100 period. Based on the results that assume a scenario of greenhouse gases at their highest increase in concentrations in the atmosphere, it can be established that the region can expect warming in every season, the level of which (compared to the average of the years 1961-90) would be greatest in the summer: 4-5 °C, and smallest in the spring: 3-3.5 °C. The expected tendency in changes in total precipitation will not be the same in the different seasons.
A reduction in precipitation in the summer, and an increase in precipitation in winter, can be expected. The degree of change in precipitation could be of the order of 30-35% in both summer and winter. It is expected that the number of heavy rainfall incidents would rise in the future, while incidents with smaller amounts of rainfall would show a declining tendency.
Changes forecast for Hungary would affect natural ecosystems, natural habitats, forests, agriculture, river and lakes, and the health of humans. Within decades, the summer water levels of Hungary’s rivers could drop to a half of what we currently experience. Without the necessary replenishment of groundwater, it will begin to fall, mainly in valleys and low lying areas such as the Great Plain. On the other hand, storms would become more common, which increases the risk of flash floods. Climate change also has a direct impact on human health: there is a high degree of certainty that the number of deaths resulting from rising temperatures and heatwaves would increase. An increase in pathogens is also associated with global warming – for instance, one forerunner of this process is the spread of ticks.
The so-called VAHAVA report contains these findings. VAHAVA is a joint research project of the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The name of the project comes from the Hungarian: Változás-Hatás-Válaszadás (Change-Impact-Response). The VAHAVA Report was drafted as part of a programme launched in 2003 involving several hundred experts, and it was finally published in 2006. Starting out from the facts outlined above, the VAHAVA Report puts forward proposals for the compilation of a National Climate Change Strategy. Section 3 of Act LX of 2007 on the implementation framework of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol stipulates the formation of the National Climate Change Strategy (NÉS), which must be elaborated first for the period 2008-2025. The National Climate Change Programmes (drafted every two years) will implement the National Climate Change Strategy.
Act LX of 2007 stipulates the adoption by the National Assembly of the National Climate Change Strategy in order to determine objectives, instruments, priorities, so particularly tasks connected to Hungarian research on climate change, the causes and impacts thereof, to the reduction of domestic greenhouse gas emissions and to the adaptation to domestic impacts of climate change as well as to the preparation for the domestic impacts and instruments for complying with these objectives.
At its session of 13 February, the government approved the National Climate Change Strategy (NÉS) for 2008-2025. Key chapters of the document include: fulfilment of EU and international commitments; the fight against the impacts of climate change; emission reductions; adaptation to climate change and protection against its ecological-socio-economic impacts; furthermore, the informing of society about climate change and strengthening climate awareness. In the next five years more than HUF 100 billion is being made available for investments connected with climate change protection. In the interest of the implementation of NÉS, the government approved the two-year National Climate Change Programme (NÉP).
Highlighted objectives of the National Climate Change Programme: reduction/restriction of greenhouse gas emissions; adaptation to the effects of climate change in Hungary; research into the cost-effective reduction of domestic emissions and impacts of climate change.