At his annual press conference on December 19, 2019 the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, admitted that climate change is indeed happening. However, the Russian President also explicitly stated that “nobody knows” what causes climate change, thus casting doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus that what we are experiencing has direct anthropogenic causes. Rather, President Putin said: “We know that in the history of our Earth there have been periods of warming and cooling and it could depend on processes in the universe. A small angle in the axis in the rotation of the Earth or its orbit around the Sun could push the planet into serious climate changes.”
However, the fact that he admitted that it is a major issue and that “we must undertake maximum efforts to ensure that the climate does not change dramatically” is already a major step in the right direction in a country where, until this day, the vast majority of the population finds climate change an extremely vague concept. Hopefully this statement from the president will help shine much needed attention on this issue.
Hot on the heels of this statement came the unveiling of Russia’s climate adaptation plan on January 4, 2020. The plan was published on the government’s website and sets out the ways in which to adapt the economy and population to climate change, aiming to mitigate damage but also “use the advantages” of warmer temperatures. The document outlines a plan of action and admits that changes in the climate have had a “prominent and increasing effect” on socioeconomic development, people’s lives, health and industry. It lists preventive measures such as dam building or switching to more drought-resistant crops, as well as crisis preparations including emergency vaccinations or evacuations in case of a disaster.
Though a positive development at first glance, the wording “use the advantages” of climate change (decreased energy use to heat colder regions, expanding agricultural areas and navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean) portrays this not as a dire crisis, but something that might actually lead to benefits – a rhetoric that is very dangerous if we want to tackle this disaster effectively. It is also self-destructive because Russia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change due to its vast Arctic regions and infrastructure built over permafrost. Russia is also warming 2.5 times quicker than the planet on average and just after the plan was unveiled, Russia’s meteorological service predicted temperatures up to 16 degrees Celsius higher than normal for Orthodox Christmas, which was just 3 days later.
Activity Rating: ***Right Direction
Dear President Putin,
It is great that you and the government finally acknowledge that climate change is happening and that it is indeed a major issue we are all facing. Having a plan of action to adapt to the changes that are sure to come (and are already here) is undoubtedly important and hopefully these statements will also enlighten the Russian population about the dire problem that is climate change.
However, you must understand that any “advantages” of climate change will be very short term and will more likely than not bring with them serious and unpredictable changes that no adaptation plan could ever prepare for. Instead of focusing on how to “take advantage” of climate, please aim all your efforts on preventing it from accelerating and getting out of control in the first place. Acknowledging that human activity is exacerbating the natural cycles that do indeed occur is the first step towards achieving this. Please listen to the science and put economic considerations aside. Russia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change because of its vast Arctic regions and infrastructure built over permafrost. Russia is also warming 2.5 times quicker than the planet on average. We stand to gain nothing from climate change.
Send an electronic message to President Putin: http://en.letters.kremlin.ru
Phone number for Presidential Directorate for Correspondence with Citizens and Organizations: +7 495 625 3581
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Russia Country Manager Maria Stambler