Bulgaria

BULGARIA IS A country in southeastern Europe that lies between Romania and Turkey and has a population of about 7.3 million. Projections warn of its significant vulnerability to climate change. It participated in the U.S. Department of Energy's Country Studies Program Department, creating an inventory of greenhouse emissions and potential mitigation. A defining event took place in 1997; a global change conference integrated efforts of scholars across a wide range of disciplines and established the Scientific Coordination Center for Global Change (SCCGC) in the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The conference summarized climate change research about emissions, climate variability and change, hydrology, agriculture, water resources, economics, demographics, data acquisition, and policy-making.

Severe water rationing in the capital of Sofia, due to mismanagement and drought, triggered a serious water conflict 1994-95. The SCCGC initiated a project studying drought from 1982 to 1994 as an analogue of future climate change. This seminal work explored impacts on environmental elements, society, economy, and human health, including computer models of climate scenarios and recommendations to policy-makers. Introducing drought- resistant crops is imperative, as well as increasing the altitude of artificial forests. Studies demonstrate future seasonal change in watersheds, and pollution during low summer flows.

A 1997-98 public opinion survey compared concerns and knowledge about climate change and emissions in the United States, Bulgaria, and Japan; such issues did not rank high among Bulgarians. A recession after 1989 led to a reduction of carbon dioxide emitted by energy and industry, the latter now surpassed by transportation, with a growing number of old and inefficient vehicles. Another nuclear power plant and a gas network for heating are in the works. Energy efficiency is improving by changing windows and adding insulation, although growing affluence results in larger homes and air conditioner usage.

The media in Bulgaria have not given persistent attention to climate change. Extreme events such as floods, droughts, and storms are treated as sensational, but quickly forgotten. Communication from scientists does not seem to effectively reach policymakers. Agriculture and tourism have come to the forefront of the economy, and increase the country's vulnerability to climate change. Agriculture was marked by intensive irrigation until 1989 (10 percent of nation's area was irrigated), but recurring droughts, such as in 2007, threaten harvests.

Warmer winters cause losses for ski resorts, while droughts lead to water scarcity in Black Sea resorts and inland. Floods occurred repeatedly in 2005 and 2007, amid prolonged droughts and extensive forest fires. Landslides were triggered in traditionally vulnerable areas, and in newly-constructed ski runs. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 4th assessment, Bulgaria, like much of the Mediterranean, will face increasingly severe summer droughts in future decades.

SEE ALSO: Agriculture; Drought; Floods; Tourism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Heejun Chang et al., "Water Resource Impacts of Climate Change in Southwestern Bulgaria," GeoJournal (v.57/4, 2002); C.G. Knight and M.P. Staneva, "Climate Change Research in Central and Eastern Europe," GeoJournal (v.57, 2002); C.G. Knight et al., Global Change and Bulgaria (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1999);

C.G. Knight, Ivan Raev, and Marieta Staneva, Drought in Bulgaria: A Contemporary Analog of Climate Change (Ashgate Press, 2004).

Marieta Staneva Pennsylvania State University, Altoona

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