By Paul Goble
Russians are so accustomed to thinking about how cold the climate is in their country that they have assumed that global warming will bring mostly positive changes to their lives, but Stanislav Kuvaldin says that in fact global warning carries with it five serious risks for them, all of which will involve serious expenditures.
In a commentary on the Snob portal today, the Moscow writer outlines five of these risks, most of which are being ignored or at least downplayed by Russians today (snob.ru/entry/166809). They include:
First, while crop yields may go up in some areas if the climate warms, in others, there will be more droughts and far more insect damage. In the country’s prime bread basket regions, in particular, the Altay, Omsk Oblast and Stavropol kray, there will arise the risk of losing all or more of the crops and thus leaving Russians without enough domestically produced food.
Second, global warming in the northern portions of Russia will lead to the melting of the permafrost and the shifting of the ground under existing infrastructure including housing, industry and pipelines. As a result, some of these things will collapse, leaving people without housing or jobs and potentially destroying the ability of Russian firms to export oil and gas.
Third, many assume that global warming will make the Northern Sea Route even more profitable for Russia; but in fact, Kuvaldin says, the appearance of more ice-free water will lead to an intensification of storms making navigation more difficult and destroying much of the infrastructure along the already weakened coastline.
Fourth, there will be more forest fires, reducing Russian exports of lumber and paper products and leading to more erosion and destruction of the environment in large parts of the country. As a result, he says, Russians will have to spend more money to compensate for these losses and will face a reduction in the overall value of the country’s natural wealth.
And fifth, while urban residents may assume that climate change will not hit them as hard as those living in rural areas, they are wrong, Kuvaldin says. Global warming will generate more wild gyrations in temperature and that in turn will mean that urban dwellers will have to spend more to compensate by turning up and then turning down the heat far more often.
Moreover, he continues, such gyrations will force urban residents to invest more money in the upkeep of their buildings and even in the complete reconstruction of some of them, adding both insulation and heating and cooling devices that the residents have long been able to do without.
In short, Kuvaldin says, global warming is going to be anything but a positive development for Russians; and they need to focus on that rather than assume self-confidently that it will only work to their benefit even if it harms others.