Russia unprepared for climate change risks, analysts say
Climate change is here and the world's largest country is neither ready nor making the necessary preparations, analysts say.
Indeed, according to Cyrus Newlin and Heather Conley at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: "it is climate change, as much as any one politician or set of policies, that will exert the strongest force on Russia’s strategic future, reshaping its politics, economy, and society for decades to come."
Russia was among the countries facing the worst risks from climate change, with big changes in average temperatures threatening potentially enormous risks to infrastructure across the country, including its vital pipeline system for transporting hydrocarbons, they said.
That is because significant parts of its territory lay in the Arctic, which was warming at more than double the rate of other regions, leaving the country particularly exposed.
Warmer temperatures in the Arctic mean that air masses around the world were shifting with greater frequency from north to south, instead of from west to east, as had been mostly the case during the past century, Yury Varakin, the head of the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Rosgidromet), told Bloomberg.
Pockets of warm air from the Mediterranean had been reaching up into northern latitudes with increasing frequency, and vice-versa, resulting in extreme weather events, such as the -60C degrees reached in Russia's eastern Irkutsk region last January.
Russians were aware of the challenges they faced, with a recent poll from the Levada Center revealing that it was in fact Russian's biggest source of worry.
Yet in 2019 its top climate scientists, at Rosgidromet, warned the country had not yet even developed a proper system for assessing weather related losses.
Making the same point, Bloomberg cited Anna Romanovskaya, at the Yu. A. Izrael Institute of Global Climate and Ecology, who estimated that Rosgidromet's estimate for total weather-related losses in 2019, of roughly $4bn, was less than a third of the real cost.
Furthermore, the challenge wasn't Russia's alone.
One study cited by Newlin and Conley estimated that at current rates of thaw - of about 1C per decade - permafrost in Russia's vast wilderness would stop completely freezing in three decades' time.
That could release what termed the two analysts termed a "potentially catastrophic" release of 10 to 240bn tonnes of carbon and methane into the atmosphere and potentially push the planet "over the brink".