Changing climate system brings Russia multibillion losses

Changing climate system brings Russia multibillion losses

Although the Kremlin is optimistic about the impact of climate change on the Russian economy, global warming means not only easier extraction of oil and gas reserves but also a growing number of natural anomalies.

Climate change threatens Russia with billions in annual costs, says Bloomberg adding that the country is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. The Arctic, which accounts for a large part of Russia’s territory, is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the world bringing such consequences as thawing permafrost, unusually high or low temperatures and summer wildfires. “The unstable climate system is leading to increasing extremes, to a growing number of weather anomalies, including dangerous events,” says Director of the Moscow-based Yu. A. Izrael Institute of Global Climate and Ecology Anna Romanovskaya.

Although Russia doesn’t have a comprehensive system for assessing weather-related losses, it is clear that disasters cause costly damage. According to Aon Benfield reinsurance broker, floods near Russia’s border with China in June 2019 cost the country more than $460 million. It estimated Russia’s overall losses caused by major catastrophes of 2019 at just under $1 billion. Russian climate scientists from the country’s Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Roshydromet) say that leading databases only record events with registered damage. In a paper prepared in 2019, the scientists presented a mathematical model for assessing losses from four high-impact weather events: strong wind, summer rain, winter snow and rain and frost. According to the assessment, the events caused 234 billion rubles ($4 billion) of monetary losses in 2017.

In 2020, Siberia faced large-scale wildfires. Photo: Ivan Simochkin

Anna Romanovskaya considers that calculations should include not only direct but also collateral economic losses, such as damage to the environment and the population’s health. She estimates Russia’s total weather-related losses for 2019 at around 850 billion rubles naming it “kind of a climate tax”.

The warming Arctic will keep causing greater weather imbalances in the Northern Hemisphere, believes Yury Varakin, the head of Roshydromet’s Situation Centre. He says that air masses are now “moving more frequently from north to south or south to north” rather than in the west-east circulation that dominated during the 20th century. That means an Arctic blast can quickly reach southern regions, while Mediterranean heat can rapidly move to northern areas. In February, a cold wave from the Arctic that advanced to the south of the United States caused power outages in Texas and left residents without electricity. “This trend will only increase irreversibly in the next 10-15 years” leading to wilder swings in the weather, considers Varakin.

By Anna Litvina