Friday, December 27, 2019

Climate Change Hitting Russia Harder than Other Countries but Kremlin Remains in Denial, Chirikova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 25 – Because Russia does not benefit from the moderating effects of oceans, climate change on Russian territory is occurring faster and in more severe forms than in almost any other country in the world, Yevgeniya Chirikova says. But the Kremlin, because of its dependence on the sale fossil fuels remains in almost complete denial.

            The leader of the Ecological Defense of Moscow Oblast movement says that many Russians, encouraged by the regime, have comforted themselves with the idea that climate change, and especially human-induced climate change, is something other countries suffer from but that Russia does not (

            As a result of such attitudes, the activist continues, “attitudes toward climate change and the solution of problems connected with their consequences among Russian officials are so strange” – such as cutting back on the capacity to fight forest fires – “that one wants to ask whether what they are doing is idiotism or a diversion.” 

            This year alone, “more than 12 million hectares of forest” in Russia burned, an area equivalent to “three Switzerlands” or “four and a half Belgiums.”  And 2019 was not an anomaly: the amount of forest lost has been rising for more than a decade and by significant amounts.

            But the Kremlin is responding “in the best traditions of Kafka: Putin proposed reducing the zone of control by 50 percent and allowing fires to burn out on their own.” Fortunately, the entire country hasn’t gone insane, and for the last 15 years, climatologists including those employed by the government have been warning about the consequences of climate change.

            In 2005, the Russian Hydro-Meteorological Service issued a report warning that “climate change in our country is taking place much more quickly than in the planet as a whole” and that what might appear to be slight changes in average temperature are leading to more floods and fires. Now, the Service says Russia’s rate of warming is 2.5 times the world average. 

            The reason Russia is in a worse position than other countries is rooted in geography, Chirikova says.  A continental country, it does not benefit from the moderating effects of the deep oceans on climate. And instead of fighting the human behaviors that produce climate change, the Kremlin is encouraging the use of oil, gas and coal.

            The powers that be don’t listen to their own experts: they listen only to Gazprom and the gas and coal concerns.  And that is putting Russia on the path to disaster especially since the Kremlin has been unwilling to invest in the development of renewable forms of energy despite the many possibilities Russia has to do so.

            And this year, the Kremlin’s opposition to steps that might slow global warming took on a new and dangerous shape. According to Moscow’s energy security doctrine, those countries which want to fight global warming are part of a conspiracy to deny Russia its rightful place as an energy superpower. 

            “The climate in Russia is changing with catastrophic speed, and each year we are experiencing the consequences ever more strongly even as the powers that be promote a worsening of the situation” with their misguided policies, the environmental activist continues.

            But, she insists, there is good news: “Russian civil society has begun to wake up” and there are now hundreds of environmental groups across the Russian Federation, groups that have arisen because “the people understand that one can and must say ‘no’ to the powers that be.

            Alas, Chirikova concludes, “the impression exists that the Russian authorities have their own reserve planet to which they will fly off in the case of a global climatic catastrophe. There are no hopes that the Russian authorities will grow up, but there is the hope that citizens will force them to solve questions about the consequences of climate change.”

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