MOSCOW – The rest of the world’s passions may be boiling over in Copenhagen this week, but Russia is paying no attention.
There is an impression that the government and public opinion – quite in the classical liberal laissez faire spirit – share the conclusion that global warming has a moderate and non-unprecedented nature, its impact on human health and wildlife is largely positive and that carbon emissions are hardly the primary factor in climate shaping. Thus, it is not a crisis and there is no need to resort to massive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
How has such an absurd situation arisen in modern Russia with strong statist traditions? Isn’t objectively existing global climate change impacting it?
Climate studies are largely done by government-funded research centers that are closely linked to international agencies primarily with the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). In the early 2009 the Federal Hydro-Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring Service (Roshydromet) published the “Assessment Report on Climate Change and Its Consequences in Russian Federation.” Most of the study’s authors are affiliated with this UN agency and their conclusions are in line with IPCC’s basic conceptions. For example, the report claims that “comparison of simulated and observed variations of surface air temperature provides convincing evidence supporting the anthropogenic nature of observed climate warming.” However, the report did not enjoy a broad publicity and had virtually no effect on public opinion.
But there is a widespread opinion among the Russian ruling elites that global warming could be beneficial to Russia. Thus, the aforementioned Roshydromet’s report lists such factors as displacement of comfortable habitation northward, increase in farming potential in regions with sufficient water resources and favorable influence on ice conditions in the Arctic seas, enhancing the potential for sea transportation and development projects on the Arctic shelf.
Admittedly, addressing the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference the Russian representatives are bound to make statements of how critical the global warming problem is and that resolute moves are needed to address it. Practically, however, Russia is hardly going to make a significant and constructive contribution to the debate and decision making.