CHANGE OF SIBERIAN CLIMATE DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING – A BENEFIT?

GeoCurrents on May 22, 2012, published a report on the possibility that Siberia’s climate will significantly change over the coming decades due to global warming. If the predicted warming occurs, could the change prove beneficial for Siberia, and Russia more generally? Many Russians think so. Excerpts below:

Russian experts who accept the reality of global warming, moreover, often welcome it for the advantages that it could bring the country. In September 2003, Vladimir Putin noted that global warming would help Russians, “save on fur coats and other warm things.” Other Russian politicians have focused more on the damage that climate change could do to Russia’s geopolitical rivals. The ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, for example, is reported to have “publicly pined for the day when global warming takes its toll on the West, gloating that London will be submerged by the Thames and “Britain will have to give freedom to Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Possible economic benefits of a warmer world for Russia are spelled out in recent article by Serge Korepin. The displacement of the Siberian permafrost zone, which could retreat by more than 100 miles (161 km) by 2050, would facilitate the extraction of mineral resources. The reduction of the Arctic ice pack, moreover, would promote mining and drilling in offshore areas. By the same token, the retreat of the pack ice will ease maritime transportation in the far north, allowing the full realization of the long-envisaged Northeastern Passage, shortening shipping routes between the north Atlantic and the north Pacific.

Actually, such changes are already occurring. As reported last year by the New York Times:

The Russians, by traveling near the coast, have been sailing the Northeast Passage for a century. They opened it to international shipping in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union. But only recently have companies begun to find the route profitable, as the receding polar ice cap has opened paths farther offshore — allowing larger, modern ships with deeper drafts to make the trip, trimming days off the voyage and saving fuel.

Most importantly, warming could also enhance Russian agriculture, says economist Svetlana Soboleva. Although drier conditions might damage farming in southern European Russia, warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons would be beneficial in the north and east, especially in Siberia.

Prediction of the complete transformation of global agricultural and settlement patterns due to climate change are highly speculative, as specific changes of both temperature and precipitation are impossible to forecast with any accuracy.

If the main consequence for Russia is the lengthening of the growing season in Siberia, the agrarian ramifications for the country could well be positive.

2 Responses to “CHANGE OF SIBERIAN CLIMATE DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING – A BENEFIT?”

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