Climate change is now affecting the entire globe on some level. Certain places have been more affected than others, and will continue to be affected in different severities and ways. Russia has already been affected by climate change; many of the issues that are already arising will continue into the future, and will most likely become more complex and severe. The National Intelligence Council has issued a report detailing some of the impacts Russia is already experiencing, and hypothesizes about some future impacts. The Council reported that climate change has brought “milder winters; melting permafrost; changing precipitation patterns; the spread of disease; and increased incidence of drought, flooding, and other extreme weather events” to Russia. Milder winters will lead to a lessened heating demand in the winter, which will mean Russia will need less energy to use as heat. With milder winters and generally warmer temperatures, water availability will increase in northern Russia (but may decrease in southern regions). Rivers will contain more water; this increase of water will have both negative and positive consequences: It will be difficult for Russia to manage rivers with more water, as they may flood more often or change course. In extreme weather events, which may increase in frequency and intensity, the rivers will be especially unstable and difficult to manage. However, with an increased flow of water through these northern rivers, Russia will have the opportunity to increase the amount of power generated by hydroelectric plants.
While Russia may be able to increase its hydroelectric energy production, The National Intelligence Council expects the country’s oil and gas industry to be negatively impacted. One of the reasons for this negative impact is that as the climate warms, the Russian permafrost will thaw earlier and deeper. This more extensive permafrost thawing will cause construction difficulties; new facilities cannot be built on land that will thaw extensively because as it thaws whatever is built on top of it will collapse. Facilities that are already built on permafrost may experience structural damage or be forced to close as the permafrost melts. With a warming climate and thawing permafrost, agriculture will also be impacted. As Russia experiences warming in its northern regions, areas that were once too cold to be agricultural land will be warm enough to be suitable for growing some crops. Seasons will also shift to occur earlier. Though an increase in the area of land suitable for agriculture would theoretically lead to an increase in crop yield, the National Intelligence Council’s report was uncertain about the magnitude of crop yield change. Russia may be able to grow different types of crops in its changing climate (although it is also uncertain if these crops would succeed in practice), but the yields of crops that are planted in the current climate may lessen in the future climate. As the climate changes, Russia’s biomes may also change. One threat to a large biome of northern Russia, the boreal forest, is fire. With a warming climate, there may be an increase in the number of fires affecting the forest. These fires may also be more severe, harder to control, and thus may burn larger areas of land. With this increase in occurrence and severity of forest fires, the forests may have an increased concentration of young growth.
Climate change will also have more direct impacts on the people of Russia. The National Intelligence Council has predicted that as countries and regions further south than Russia warm, more people may decide to immigrate to Russia. Additionally, many of the areas most affected by climate change will often be smaller countryside towns, so communities in more rural areas
of Russia may experience exacerbated socioeconomic inequality. However, one issue that will affect Russians no matter their economic status will be an increase in habitat of certain insects. As northern latitudes experience warmer temperatures, insects will move farther north, and will bring with them diseases such as encephalitis, which ticks will bring to Russia. Anthropogenic climate change has been occurring for many years, and will continue for many more unless humans act to reduce their impact on the Earth. Many of the impacts discussed above will occur in other regions as well as Russia; we must act promptly to address these issues brought about from climate change.