With no brakes on consumption and combustion of fossil fuels for our energy needs, the increasing emission of greenhouse gases has been causing global temperature to touch record highs each year. The resultant climate change has been evident all across the world, which has been manifesting itself in forms of extreme weather events such as floods, drought, heat waves, frequent cyclones and warming of ice sheets in Arctic region. For Russia, the transcontinental country sprawling across North Asia and Eastern Europe, 2019 emerged as one of the hottest years ever recorded in its recent history. This shift in its temperature threatens not only its socio-economic development, living conditions of its people but also human health! Once reluctant, 2019 saw Russia embracing, though half-heartedly, climate change actions and making obvious its willingness to introduce more environmentally friendly measures to combat climate change.
Russia has been warming at a faster rate–somewhere two and half times more– than the rest of the planet! Between 1976 and 2018, the average temperature in Russia increased by 0.47° Celsius, every year. In 2019, Moscow, the capital of Russia, recorded an average temperature of 7.6-7.7° Celsius which was 0.3° Celsius more than what it was in 2018. December of 2019 too was the warmest one in a century. December just had some flurries fell and mostly remained cloudy and without snow. Even for the new year’s eve, the city had to use artificial snow. Most of the ski resorts remained shut owing to lack of enough snow. With warmer winters, the plants which usually flowered in the spring started blossoming three months earlier in winter!
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has been unwilling to acknowledge the role of human activities in triggering global warming and climate change. However, in the last few years, we have seen Russia formally joining the Paris climate agreement which augurs well for those lobbying for climate actions. The Paris accord requires minimum contribution from nations just enough to keep the warming to 1.5° Celsius by the end of this century. Being the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Russia intends to commit to its reduction of greenhouse gases emission as low as the 75 per cent of the 1990 level. However, climate experts argue that the target is too low for such a huge nation which is massively dependant on fossil fuel energy sources. As far as CO2 emission is concerned, Russia has been curbing its emission and has been doing better than the three bigger emitters, namely China, India and the US.
The industry lobbyists, though, have been objecting any introduction of policies pertaining to further reductions of emissions. With the second most energy-intensive economy country in the world, these policies threaten Russia losing its economic growth. The European Union, which is one of the biggest importers of fuel from Russia, has been trying to sharply cut its dependence on fossil fuels, which would mean a further decline in the economic development of Russia. This conundrum, which ecology and economy present for Russia, needs to be tackled cautiously, warn experts. Given the ongoing climate changes –which is estimated to increase the frequency of drought and dryness in some regions, melting of its permafrost, bad harvests–and impending crisis, it would be pragmatic to lower its dependence on fossil fuels and improve its energy efficiency simultaneously, trying to achieve its climate action goals. Further, better adaptation plans to tackle climate changes are needed which includes constructing dams, growing drought-resistant crops and ensuring the resettlement of the affected population.