The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992 was launched following the release of a sobering report on global warming and the greenhouse effect published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1990. Since then, 183 of 197 parties have signed the Paris Agreement to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 °C. Russia is currently in the process of ratifying the Agreement.
According to a poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center in 2017, 86% of Russians have noted serious changes in climate and 51% believe that global warming is a severe problem that should be addressed immediately. At the same time, 27% of Russians expect positive impacts and 39% believe it is merely a speculative topic.
Russia is experiencing major changes in its ecosystem and is warming 2.5 times faster than the average global rate. In addition to melting ice in the Arctic and the loss of drinkable water due to depletion of the ozone layer, snow is thawing in Siberia and in northern regions of Russia. Some people believe these changes will positively affect Russia by producing a more hospitable climate for agriculture and by increasing total acreage available for farming.
However, Alexey Kokorin, Director of the Climate and Energy Program at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia, warns that any positive effects from global warming will only be short-term. Extensive rainfall caused major flooding in Russian regions in 2013, including Khabarovsk Krai, Amur Oblast, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Only three years prior in 2010, high temperatures in the summer caused massive forest fires, and the resulting smoke killed tens of thousands of Russians. Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world, has recently experienced a smaller percentage of water inflow due to increasing lake temperatures. Even animal species in Russia have not been spared—some are being pushed into extinction while others are experiencing an increased birthrate or unusual migration patterns. For example, dangerous ticks are growing in numbers and have moved to new regions in Russia. This is even more concerning, statistically, because 1 out of 1,000 ticks carry encephalitis.
These startling effects of climate change have not gone unnoticed in Moscow. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology has estimated that by 2030, climate change in Russia will result in an average loss of 1-2% of GDP per year and in some regions, 4-5%. Even Anton Kulbachevsky, Minister of Moscow Government and Head of the Department for Environmental Management and Protection, has estimated the damage to Moscow alone to reach $4.3 billion per year. In an effort to offset some of these negative outcomes, Russia has set a goal to reduce emissions by 25%-30% below 1990-levels by the year 2030.
Such details should remind Americans and Russians alike that we co-exist on the same planet, and as such, we face many common challenges. Working together to achieve sustainable solutions to combat climate change is a mutual responsibility we share for both ourselves and future generations.
A special thanks to Valeriy Gataullin for research assistance on this blog.