Hot Russia

The Russians appear to have finally come clean on their climate-change policy in a whitepaper focusing on plans for adaptation “as well as the seizing of the opportunities arising from such changes.”

Already the world leader in wheat production, Russia is purported to have long held visions of turning the once frozen but now warming expanses of Siberia into productive croplands.

The 17-page “Government Order” dated Dec. 31 notes that Russia, a nation largely situated in the Arctic and near-Arctic, has been warming at two and a half times the rate of the rest of the planet and that is causing problems. It specifically lists a number of these well familiar to Alaskans:

  • Drought conditions
  • Increased risks of forest fires
  • Melting permafrost
  • Changing ecosystems
  • And “the spread of infectious and parasitic diseases.”

Warm climates support more life forms than cold climates. Unfortunately some of those life forms are nasty pathogens.


But the Russians also see opportunities and benefits in climate change:

The Russians harvest trees for lumber in their northern forests. There is almost none of that in Alaska now. U.S./Alaska economics make it cheaper to ship north lumber from the Pacific Northwest – not to mention most other commodities – than to produce them here.

Beer might be the biggest exception. Although the flavor ingredients for the beer are shipped north, the water – the main component of the product – is Alaskan, and as state labor economic Neal Fried has noted, the state does beer well.

Nationally, Alaska ranks fourth in local brewers per capita.

While the Russians have been busy building liquified natural gas (LNG) plants at ports in the Arctic and constructing pipelines to move natural gas markets in China, Alaskans have been upping the production of stouts, porters, pilsners, lagers, ambers and barrel after barrel of IPAs.

Russia’s dependence on the revenues from its oil and gas businesses gives it ample cause to shy away from the climate-change agenda, given that almost every plan for reducing carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas thought to be driving planetary warming – is tied to reducing the use of hydrocarbons.

Keep on pumpin’

The Russian plan would indicate the country believes it can keep on producing, deal with the expected challenges of environmental changes related to global warming, and at the same time obtain “additional benefits in weather-dependent and climate-dependent industries by identifying and implementing optimal business decisions based on current information and the predicted state of the environment.”

Alaska was once way ahead of the Russians on this one. Forty years ago, the former and now late Gov. Jay Hammond along with sidekick Bob Palmer, a special advisor who died in 2004, were making plans for a massive expansion of weather-dependent Alaska agriculture.

“Alaska is tapping its oil wells for a second product — bountiful cropland — to ensure a continuing harvest long after the oil runs out,” Jonathan Harsch reported for the Christian Science Monitor from Chicago in 1980. “Over the past 18 months, forests have been stripped and converted into rich fields of grain. The transformation, at a cost so far of $15 million for the first 50,000-acre, state-run demonstration project at Delta Junction, southeast of Fairbanks, has been made possible by oil revenues. It comes at a time when agricultural experts are increasingly concerned by the steady loss of US farmland to urban sprawl and industrialization.”

Hammond and Palmer were, unfortunately, way too far ahead of the warming curve. The Delta Barley Project turned into a giant state boondoggle although some of the barley farms survived and have shown a resurgence in recent years with a promise of more for the future given a feared global shortage of barley for beer as the climate continues to warm.

The farmers have been helped by an increasingly longer Alaska growing season, but they have not benefitted from climate change nearly as much as the state’s commercial fishermen.

Due largely to a warmer ocean, average annual state salmon harvests have climbed every decade since the 1980s and were at record levels in the 2010s. But no one is sure how long this will last.

Over the long term, global warming is thought to be a threat to Pacific salmon.

Thus it is arguably good for Alaskans that the Russian order does promise “compliance with international obligations of the Russian Federations under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and other international treaties in which the Russian Federation is a party.”

The United Nation’s Framework caps Russian carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, the cap was set at the level of emissions in the now-defunct and once heavily industrialized Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

The Russian Federation is comprised of only some of the republics that made up the USSR, and the cap on Russian carbon as set by the U.N. actually allows for increased Russian carbon production.

The Moscow Times described the U.N. goal as meaningless given that “emissions peaked in the last year of the Soviet Union, and the following year emissions collapsed along with the Soviet economy. 

“Russia’s commitment means it can actually increase its emissions from the current 1.8 gigatonnes a year and still meet its commitments to the Paris deal.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin would appear to like that idea given that he can play to both sides of the climate issue, promising on one hand to do Russia’s part to slow global warming by staying under the U.N. cap and preparing on the other hand to use global warming to continue his efforts to rebuild Russia to the position of the global power it was before the fall of the USSR.

The collapse of the USSR marked the end of what was known as the Cold War between Russian and the West. Could this mark the start of a new Warm War?








13 replies »

  1. Historically anytime there is a warm period civilization thrives and expands. Obviously coming out of the last ice age was a massively productive time for early humans where our ancestors spread across the globe. The Roman warm period saw the expansion of the Roman Empire throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Western Asia. The Medieval warm period saw the Vikings move West and North into Iceland and Greenland into areas that are still mostly inhospitable today.

    Some think that catastrophe, crisis, and nothing good will come from any small amount of warming since the little ice age ended about 150 years ago. Others simply choose to overreact and try to turn any and everything into a crisis that should not be wasted, playing on the fears of those who do not have the knowledge or perspective required to make sound judgments on the situation. These same people for whatever reason would be happy seeing humanity plunged into darkness and cold that was seen during the little ice age. The fact that civilization does not thrive during colder periods would be welcomed by many who see humanity as a scourge on the earth.

      • No doubt, fear keeps us safe. It drives us to seek shelter in a storm, lay up food and firewood for the long winter. It also keeps us in line, complacent, and meek, it drives some to the brink of insanity. It also drives us to achieve greatness the likes we have never seen. Fear is a great motivator, the question is if we are being driven by a healthy or unhealthy fear. Time will tell.

      • I liked to say, back in the MAD days of the Cold War …’Long as we’re saucer-eyed & sweaty-browed … we should get through ok’!

    • Stev-o,
      While some vikings indeed move west,i think its fair to say the smarter ones or more ambitious and most certainly more powerfull,moved southwest into england,ireland and Scotland.

  2. Russia knows about global warming, but they also know – all too well – about cooling.

    During the 1930s the USSR expanded their grain-growing districts into terrain previously too cold, as high-temperature records were set, many of which still stand.

    But then after the War, cooling set in. Russia lost grain-growing ability, and eventually was humiliated by having to buy American grain. They felt a little better, when Western Climate Scientists stripped naked and ran through the streets screaming, The Glaciers Are Coming!!! … getting their junk frost-bitten.

    Of course, Russia also had that weird Lysenkoism thing to contend with, during the earlier-20th C warm spell … although Alaska & the West today probably don’t have that much to be smug about, in the bizarre-affections department.

  3. Steve,
    The majority of that went to backfill the giant hole that trade war caused,with regards to subsidies.
    But of course the admin didnt take our opinion into account on that decision.

    • Dave,
      I get having to subsidize the Ag Industry to some extent (Trump’s current trade war) but the reality is this $19 billion is going to multi million dollar companies who will then pass it on to their shareholders and executives.
      (They were already poised to make millions in profits this year)
      This as our national deficit is spinning out of control?
      At least use the money to grow food domestically and create jobs, but that is not happening here.
      It is a “siphoning off” of American farmland while these same companies are growing over 50 percent of their produce in Mexico.
      (Those jobs are not coming back)
      NAFTA does not help the “Bread Basket” in any way…neither will the $19 billion in Corporate Welfare awarded by the Trump Administration.

  4. Craig,
    You are right that Russia is way ahead of Alaska in preparation for the Climate Changes that are effecting Agriculture and the Economy.
    The main problem in AK is that the GOP/ Koch Supporters have taken a hard line fighting the science behind the issue, instead of planning ahead like Putin has done.
    Inevitably, AK will be left in the dust (literally) if more and more “Deniers” are voted to Juneau.

    • Just a reminder Steve:
      ““U.S. and global crop production continue to set new records, even as climate activists ramp up a campaign to convince people that climate change is decimating crop production and forcing farmers out of business.

      The latest misinformation was spread by Politico. Politico in October published an article titled, “‘I’m standing right here in the middle of climate change’: How USDA is failing farmers.”

      • Bryan,
        Over 50 percent of our produce comes from Mexico (where there are NO restrictions on pesticides)…why is Cancer on the rise?
        Before NAFTA, nearly 80 percent of the fruits and vegetables came from within our own country.
        Don’t tell me that production is at record highs, cause this is U.S. corporations “white washing” the figures.
        Trump just paid out $19 billion to U.S. Agriculture Corporations to “not grow” on their homeland…where as only $5 billion goes to SNAP benifits to feed the poor.
        Great imbalance in America these days and the corporate greed is out of check.
        Apple makes a profit of $400,000 per U.S. employee but they will not bring manufacturing back to the U.S.?
        Stock market figures only tell us how rich our Oligarchs have become, nothing about local economies throughout the U.S.

      • I have a friend whos brother farms corn in Illinois and I tell you. It’s vacations to Mexico, new pickups and equipment all the time, with very little work because of crop insurance. If it happens to get too wet to get in the fields to plant or too wet to get the corn out before winter, or if the markets a little low, No big deal, the check will still come in. Of course the corn they raise goes to making corn syrup, dextrose, cornstarch, and other products so they can go in and get the corn out after winter has started. Mostly they’re waiting for the corn to dry out enough in the field so that they don’t have to spend money to dry it after harvesting.

        BTW…Dextrose is the new corn syrup replacement ingredient, people haven’t caught on to yet. Because people have rightfully shied away from products with corn syrup in them, this is what we have now. Dextrose is basically a dry form of the syrup. The other day I looked at the ingredients in a package of salt and they’re even putting dextrose in salt now. Watch Em, they get sneaky!, with their billion dollar GMO Corn business that they can’t/won’t let fail.

        I grow my own vegetables, guaranteed to be Alaskan grown produce that way. Most the store bought vegetables out anymore are amazingly tasteless. I don’t know if it’s the GMO factor, the mass producing, the varieties they use, or their soil. If I do have to buy, I only get Canadian or USA produce or I do without.

Leave a Reply to BryanCancel reply