Tuesday, October 20, 2020

New Coal Mining in Russian North Made Possible by Global Warming Exacerbating that Trend, Finnish Journal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – Global warming has allowed Russia to expand its coal mining operations in the Russian North, a development that because the dust and greenhouse gases from such operations is exacerbating that problem, to even more rapid melting of snow and ice is exacerbating the problem, according to Finnish journalist Erkke Mikkonen.

            After travelling through the area, she concludes in an article for Yle that many Russians welcome the warming of the North because it makes possible more economic activity, they at the same time are accelerating the change by as much as 25 percent and harming themselves and their neighbors in the process (yle.fi/uutiset/3-11339443; in Russian at inosmi.ru/social/20200514/247419559.html).

            The Finns have raised this issue in the Arctic Council and in bilateral talks with the Russian leadership. But climate change is not the only result of expanded coal mining in the region. It is also leading to steep increases in asthma and other lung diseases. As a result, some Russians in the region have begun to protest against the new mines.

            While some Russian mines have been opened, others have been closed; but people in the region doubt that it will be possible anytime soon to shift to cleaner natural gas entirely. They note that Moscow has little interest in this and ratified the Paris Climate Accord only in the fall of 2019.

            What has happened since that time, Mikkonen says, is that Moscow has adopted longterm plans but has done relatively little to move in their direction, a common enough Russian approach. And she reports that there is another related threat on the horizon: processing Moscow trash in the North.

            If that project goes through, it will not only damage the immediate environment by contaminating the water supply; but like coal mining, it will spew out particles that will darken the surface of the ground, particularly where there is snow cover, and lead to even more rapid melting of the permafrost and the further acceleration of global warming. 

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