Staunton, May 14 – Global warming will melt most of the permafrost underlying 60 percent of Russian territory over the next 20 to 30 years, Natural Resources Minister Aleksandr Kozlov says, allowing for the development of agriculture in places where it was never possible before (rbc.ru/business/11/05/2021/609946f89a7947d7c3da4fb5).
Initially, he said, the ice just under the surface will melt but then the depth of the melt will increase until almost all of it is gone by the end of this century, a situation that will produce massive problems across the region that even agricultural development won’t be in a position to compensate for.
Despite his attempt to put the best face on things, the reality is that with the melting of the permafrost layer, many buildings and pipelines in that region are at risk of collapse. Indeed, Nornikel director Vladimir Potanin now says that that may have been the cause of the May 2020 oil spill near Norilsk that transfixed Russians at the time.
Then, Moscow officials sought to blame an employee of the company even though experts on the environment and construction disagreed. They blamed the permafrost melt and warned that there would be more such accidents in the future across the Russian North (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/06/norilsk-tip-of-iceberg-as-millions-of.html).
Now in the wake of a court decision against Nornikel, it appears the company’s management is ready to accept the conclusions of the expert community to deflect responsibility. But what remains unclear is whether it or the Russian government will take the steps necessary to protect pipelines and other infrastructure from the subsidence of the soil permafrost melting entails.
If that does not happen, it will make it even more difficult to develop agriculture in the North of the kind Kozlov suggests will be possible and to create the infrastructure needed along Russia’s Arctic coastline to support the Northern Sea Route and Moscow’s aspirations to the mineral wealth on the Arctic seabed.