What is Russia's view on climate change?

April 19, 2022

What is Russia's view on climate change?

Martine Dirkzwager Wu
April 19, 2022

What is Russia's view on climate change?

Melting ice caps in the Arctic are incentivizing Russia’s exploitation and extraction of natural resources representing the last straw of the Anthropocene.
Martine Dirkzwager Wu
April 19, 2022
What is Russia's view on climate change?
Martine Dirkzwager Wu
Maya Turolla
April 19, 2022
Design by Zeynep Algan. © FreedomLab

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. 

Picture taken by Kim Young, June 2017. Source: Google Maps
Rising emissions with catastrophic consequences

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.

About the author
With a background in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Martine is researching the rise of Asia and what new world order it might bring. Concerned by societal, economic and environmental issues worldwide, she is interested in learning how Asian nations search for proactive solutions through technology. In trying to understand a fundamentally uncertain world, her thought process aims to be critical and creative. She celebrates an era of post-truth in which her task is to trace knowledge all along its distribution network, including but not limited to nature, academia and culture.
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