Climate Change in Estonia

Article by Mary Kuronzwi, a volunteer for Climate Justice for All.

Estonia is the northernmost and the smallest country in the Baltic States in Europe. Estonia has a population of 1.3 million and 68.5% live in urban areas. It lies in the transition zone between maritime and continental climates. The country’s total area is 45,339 km2, of which almost half is covered by forests. Although Estonia is a relatively small country by area, it has a comparatively large proportion of unspoiled protected nature. Due to the available natural resources, all forest-related sectors are imperative for the Estonian economy.

Sea-level rise is one of the main impacts of climate change for Estonia, which could strongly affect the territory of the country because of its relatively long coastline and extensive low- lying coastal areas. While the World Health Organisation has ranked Estonia as one of the countries with the cleanest air in the world, Estonia generates 35 times the EU average in hazardous waste per capita. Changes in both the climate system and socioeconomic processes including exposure to hazards and adaptation and mitigation actions are drivers of the vulnerability of the society. The country is exposed to air hazards from industries as well as water quality hazards from waste that is released into rivers.

Climate change is becoming evident in 21st century Estonia as it is in many other parts of the world. This can be seen in the rise in temperatures, especially from 2017 to present; reduction in ice and snow cover; heatwaves and droughts; changes in vegetation; spread of alien species, including new plant pests and pathogenic agents; unfrozen and excessively moist forest land which limits the possibilities of logging; changes in seasonal energy consumption peaks; increase in the frequency of health problems of residents. 2021 has been the hottest year in the last 19 years, with no rains at all in the month of July causing people to fear veld fires that can be caused in dry grasses.

Because Estonia has always been a cold country and farmers have adapted to winter or cold-resistant types of crops, this year many crops are dying due to lack of precipitation. Food security is already threatened due to these changes in climate and the effects of extreme weather on crop nutrient content and yields, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, and land use. Climate changes have already affected crop suitability in many areas especially south Estonia, resulting in changes in the production levels of main agricultural crops. Crop production is negatively affected by the increase in both hot and cold climate extremes. It is very hard for farmers to predict plants for the seasons because the weather is very unpredictable. In 2020, snow came in the middle of May and all spring crops were covered with snow and some were destroyed.

Call to action
As young people in Estonia and as people of faith, youths from the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Baptist Church have put together call for actions to combat climate change and we can help the church members understand their carbon footprints

  1. To be accountable for what we do every day and to make sure we keep the country clean as much as we can
  2. To make sure that we invest in clean and green energy
  3. To build resilient communities in the face of climate change.
  4. To hold creation care reflective worship and to be good stewards of God’s creations.