The critical need to address the climate crisis is a global one. Individual consumer practices and international standards must shift to address the threats of the Anthropocene. Only half-way through 2020 did Putin recognize the anthropogenic factor of climate change. Albeit necessary, this effort is far from sufficient: it does not guarantee action. Putin’s intentions are apparently conflicting: while he stresses the harm of greenhouse gasses, he disagrees with the net-zero commitment; and while concerned with climate change, he missed attendance at last year’s COP26.
Russia’s lack of action is surprising given that the effects of global warming have impacted the nation disproportionately, with its Arctic warming 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world. In 2020, Russian rivers were flooded with almost twenty thousand tons of diesel oil after a storage tank failed in Norilsk, generating a catastrophic oil spill. Images of the Russian military force combating wildfires is about as clear as the message can get, yet Russia manages to reinterpret these in an accelerationism of sorts.
The anthropogenic ability to change the Earth’s course is viewed as heroic. In fact, long before global warming was a mainstream topic, Soviet scientists flirted with the idea of intentionally modifying the weather and climate through technology. Quite ironically, a recently released plan of action celebrated the ‘positive’ face of climate change; reduced energy consumption, accessible commercial shipping routes, expanded plots of arable land. Similarly, some Russian officials recognized climate change as an imminent issue beyond Russian control, which should therefore not stop Russia from extracting energy from hydrocarbon resources.
As the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world, international pressure is unavoidable. In 2019, Russia signed the Paris Accord, demonstrating a commitment to lower its carbon emissions. Nonetheless, because the Soviet 1990s were taken as a benchmark, Russia can increase its emissions, respectful of the 30% reduction target agreed upon. Based on the Ministry of Economic Development’s strategy published in 2020, emissions are indeed set to rise by 2030.
Obviously, scheming extraction models based on past performance is a mistaken methodology because of its dependence on natural sources of energy, which are constantly subject to environmental changes. The problem with adopting an accelerationist strategy is it deposits too much hope on the future. The consequences of intensifying the exploitation of the Earth are unpredictable. That radical and disruptive changes are to occur is a certainty, yet precisely what these changes will be and will entail cannot be known. Russia’s strategy is myopic, involving unforeseeable risks menacing at a planetary level.