The Adapters


One of the world’s most adaptable species photographed on 79th Street in New York, NY/G. Scott Segler @ Wikimedia Commons

The latest “Decree of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation” on how to deal with climate change is out, and the operative word is “adaptation.”

Noticeably missing are words like “energy conservation” or “alternative energy” or “carbon dioxide emissions” or even “permafrost,” which some in the west believe will, as ABC News reported, leave an area the size of Canada “largely useless for agriculture or building.”

This is a reference to Siberia and the Russian Far East, whicht together comprise about three-quarters of the Russian landmass, but remain largely wild and uninhabited.

Though now home to nearly 40 million people, most of them living near the region’s southern edge, Siberia has a population density less than eight people per square mile or about that of Montana.

And the Russian Far East is even less densely populated. Covering an area about four-times the size of Alaska, it is home to but 8.1 million people. 

As in Alaska, most of these people are concentrated in the region’s major cities. The website Statista reports almost 73 percent of the region’s people inhabit urban areas.

Russia has long yearned to develop these areas, and though Russian President Vladimir Putin says the country is now willing to cooperate with a global plan to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases produced by human use of hydrocarbons for fuel, one cannot help but wonder about the true intentions of the nation just across the Bering Strait from Alaska.

The longest-lived ‘Last Frontier’

As Rosemary Griffin observed at the consultancy S&P Global Platts in 2020, “the Russian energy ministry estimates that Arctic oil production will account for 26 percent of overall output by 2035, up from 11.8 percent in 2007.

“Many in Moscow even point to warming temperatures and retreating sea ice as a boost to plans to launch new oil and gas field development and increase shipments via the Northern Sea Route, which links Asia to Europe via Arctic seas.”

Despite Putin’s supposed change of tune on climate change since that was written, the agriculture decree has to leave one wondering what is real and what is done merely for show.

The Agriculture Decree duly notes the problems a changing climate could cause for existing development, of which there is comparatively little in northern Russia, but adds that there is potential for “improving the structure and expanding the zone of crop production, as well as increasing the efficiency of animal husbandry.”

It also notes fishing opportunities are expected to increase “since the main fishing regions of Russia are concentrated in temperate and high latitudes.”

There follows a 16-point list of topics that needed to be studied with an eye to Russian adaptation, most of which are aimed at maintaining and increasing Russian agricultural production, which would appear to be the country’s grand strategy.

“Climate change is often considered universally harmful. However, recent studies indicate that climate change is increasing Russia’s wheat production, while reducing its competitors’ relative share of the global market,” researchers attached to The Project on International Peace and Security (PIPS) think tank at the College of William & Mary noted two years ago.

“At the same time, the demand for wheat in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa is expected to rise significantly in response to demographic changes. The Middle
East and North Africa, in particular, are already unable to meet their demand for wheat due to a lack of arable land,” Collin Nelson and Jenna Galberg wrote there. “These regions will be increasingly reliant on the world’s future breadbasket: Russia. The United States should expect Moscow to exploit this agricultural leverage to influence vulnerable countries.”

And then there is the Northern Sea Route, a long-time dream of Putin’s in which the Russians are heavily invested. Its future is tied to global warming in that an ice-free Arctic Ocean, or at least one low in ice, makes it possible to ship oil, gas and other high-value, natural resources from Arctic Russia through the Bering Strait to Asia.

While Russia’s climate agenda – whatever it might be – has unknown global implications, the Northern Sea Route has direct and potentially significant implications for Alaska, which is wholly unprepared to deal with an oil spill of any significance in the Bering Sea, and the risks of spills go up in proportion to vessel traffic.

Out of sight growth

While unnoticed by almost anyone – the coasts of the Bering Sea are among the least inhabited coasts in the world – the Nothern Sea Route last year set a record for shipping traffic.

“The figure for the full year is expected to exceed 34 million tonnes – an increase of 350 percent over the past five years,” The Maritime Executive reported near year’s end. “This is one of the many signs of economic growth in Russia’s Arctic, particularly in the oil and gas industry. Liquefied natural gas and oil tankers make up the majority of total traffic on the route.”

Thirty-four million tons of freight is a pittance in world where 11 billion tons move by ship every year, but the size of the steady growth in the route cannot be ignored.

“Russia’s ambitious goal is to achieve total yearly traffic of 80 million tonnes by 2024 and 110 million tonnes by 2030,” the Executive noted. “A warming Arctic is opening up new economic opportunities for the region as the extent of average ice cover retreats and the average ice thickness declines.”

More wheat in Russian farming regions, more oil and gas from the Arctic, improved Arctic shipping, a more human-hospitable Siberia and Far East where Russia has always eyed its future hopes for population growth….

From a Russian perspective, it might be tempting “what’s not to like about global warming?”

There are reasons Putin might want to privately embrace global warming rather than oppose it while publicly claiming the opposite.

Thus the Agriculture Decree’s lone mention of carbon calls for a “scientific conference on the topic, ‘Analysis of studies of sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the agro-industrial complex and fisheries,’ as well as the possibility of developing and testing technologies for controlling the carbon footprint to take appropriate measures to reduce their negative impact on agriculture and fisheries.”

It would be nice to believe that interest in new technology is all about reducing carbon emissions, but it’s hard to overlook the reality that economically viable carbon-capture technologies could prove highly marketable, and Putin is a man who clearly understands that national power on the global scale in the modern world is as much about economics as military might.

The latest strategic analysis from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) generally downplays Russia’s ability to project power via the global economy – noting a shrinking labor force, the limitations on technology-fostering free markets, government corruption and the country’s failure to wholly embrace the issue of climate change on which Europe is highly focused.

Brothers in arms

But report also warns “China may contribute strategic investments and technological support to help Russia fight the negative effects of climate change in the short-term,” while “China’s financial backing can capitalize on the potential new commerce and resource exploration.”

In some ways, Russia and the oppressive regime in Bejing seem a match almost made in heaven. And China, like Russia, talks about embracing climate-change mitigation while doing the opposite.

Already the world’s largest source of carbon-dioxide emissions, China last year announced plans to build 43 new coal-fired powerplants at a time when much of the rest of the world is running away from carbon-heavy coal as if it were the plague.

Still, it is clear China needs to eventually get away from coal for the same reason most of the areas surrounding major U.S. metropolitan areas got away from coal: direct and obvious air pollution versus the invisible problem of carbon dioxide.

“The annual average concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) across China was 57 micrograms per meter cubed in 2017, nearly six times what the World Health Organisation deems to be acceptable limits. Poor outdoor air quality results in over 1 million deaths across China each year,” the World Economic Forum reported last year.

Russia and China have since announced plans for two huge natural gas pipelines to connect their countries.

“Russia already sends gas to China via its Power of Siberia pipeline, which began pumping supplies in 2019, and by shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG). It exported 16.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to China in 2021.”

Alaska once hoped to sell China a large amount North Slope gas shipped south to Cook Inlet in a long dreamed of natural gas pipeline.

“In a gala ceremony Nov. 9 (2017), (Gov. Bill) Walker signed a ‘joint development agreement’ for the trans-Alaska gas pipeline project known as AKLNG. The agreement was signed with China’s state-owned bank, its state-owned petroleum company, and the Chinese equivalent of the Alaska Permanent Fund, in front of Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump,” the Juneau Empire reported five years ago. 

“‘It really will open up Alaska, perhaps like we’ve never seen before,”Walker said of the state’s new ties to China, and suggested that the state could also benefit from Chinese tourism and Chinese demand for minerals.”

Some at the time wondered if Walker wasn’t just getting played by the Chinese to help drive down the price of the gas offered by the Russians then also in talks with Bejing. The growing alliance between the two authoritarian powers is causing increasing concern in the West.

“The biggest question is whether China can truly serve as an economic substitute for the West,” Eugene Chausovsky observed in Foreign Policy at the start of the month. “As such, it is crucial to look at the structural nature of Russia’s economic relationships with both the West and with China, both in terms of trade flows and the infrastructure that underpins them.”

Chausovsky’s analysis was largely focused on the economic constraints that might prevent a threatened Russian invasion of the Ukraine. And he was of the opinion that economic factors would discourage Russia from doing much more than saber-rattling along that border.

“Russia’s trade with the European Union (EU( totaled nearly $220 billion in 2021, roughly 1.5 times the size of Russian-Chinese trade,” he wrote. “Russia serves as a major energy exporter to the EU, accounting for 26 percent of the European bloc’s oil imports and 40 percent of its natural gas imports. Although many have pointed to the EU’s energy dependence as a major source of leverage and a geopolitical tool for the Kremlin, the reality is that this dependence goes both ways, with energy revenues accounting for nearly 40 percent of Russia’s budget revenues.”

At the same time, however, he warned that “the West has to consider the extent of its economic and political isolation from Russia, which could drive Moscow into an even closer relationship with China. This could violate a key geopolitical imperative for the United States, which is to prevent the emergence of a hegemon (or alliance of hegemons) in Eurasia that could challenge the United States’ global position.

“Yet even in the best-case scenario  – where war in Ukraine is averted and some kind of diplomatic understanding is reached – the prolonged standoff between Moscow and the West as well as its associated risks could transform the scale and depth of Russia’s ties with China in the long term. Putin’s visit to Beijing and the subsequent conclusion of the Olympics could well prove to be a symbolic turning point, not of an imminent war but of a deeper geopolitical shift.”

It isn’t just with carbon-dioxide emissions that it must be observed that what happens in Russia – Alaska’s neighbor immediately to the west – doesn’t stay in Russia, and the same holds true for China.

Alaskans could only wish these two countries were as proverbially friendly as its neighbors to the east – the Canadians. Or at least the Canadians before the country blew up over whether long-haul truckers should be required to wear facing coverings and get vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 











28 replies »

  1. Natural gas is most reasonable option. Only unwise promote nuclear at this point. Unbelievable quantity of nat gas . Reasonable cost , low pollution , it comes in liquid, gas or solid- I know thats odd . ( called ice ) look it up . Nuke promoters are premature. I am definitely a NImby/ Or not on my Earth .

    • Natural Gas Powered vehicles is the way to go. Any combustion engine can be converted. The municipality has used them for over fifty years. The west coast can’t even keep light bulbs lit or AC running; how can they charge millions of cars? Instead of nationwide electrical charging stations, a tax credit for nationwide NG charging stations is needed.

  2. Soeaking of nuclear power. This is all starting to have the feel of mutually assured destruction, without lobbing nukes at each other. We are going to use economics and computers to destroy each other’s economies putting us all back into the dark ages. I suppose at some point Biden might accidentally send an actual nuke in an effort to show Putin who’s boss, and Putin will retaliate and then we will have mutually assured destruction by nuke.

    The good news for some is that the resulting nuclear winter will take care of that pesky global warming issue.

  3. The earth and its weather are in flux and always have been. Man was not responsible for melting the glaciers that covered most of North America.

    • Not responsible, yes. Temperatures have been generally rising since the end of the last Ice Age.

      A possible contributor to this increase since the start of the Industrial Revolution? Highly probable. There’s been a big spike in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The prehistoric record would indicate those used to “follow” warming. This one is “preceding” warming.

      The most obvious explanation is that we have something to do with that. The big question is what to do about that. And the same applies to energy because oil and gas aren’t going to last forever. The French have decided to go all-in on atomic power.

      I’d be more comfortable doing that if someone would hurry up and crack the fusion problem.

      • We are actually heading for a cool down..Truth is the truth. Prof. Carl-Otto Weiss, Advisor to the European Institute for Climate and Energy; Former President of the National Metrology Institute of Germany, Braunschweig.

      • It’s worth noting that the beginning of the industrial revolution also coincided with the end of the little ice age, which was the coolest period of time since the beginning of the Holocene. In other words, the starting point for global warming is based upon an arbitrary point in time when it was the relatively coolest it has been in the past 10,000 to 12,000 years…does that make it arbitrary or does that make it based upon the relatively coolest time in the past 10,000 to 12,000 years? If we base our global temperature average just on the last 10,000 to 12,000 years we would still be on average in a cool phase.

      • Steve-O,tell that to CA,AZ,CO.

        OTOH,Craig,fusion folks seem to be getting pretty giddy of late

  4. Bryan,
    I could not agree more. Let’s build some nuclear generation plants. China has a million die each year from coal fired generation environmental impacts and no one blinks. But when there is a meltdown in Chernobyl or in Japan that causes a few thousand deaths the world pays attention. Let’s really get the attention of the world!
    I say let’s build these nuclear plants in the middle of large cities like NYC or LA, or even Portland. So if and when the meltdown occurs a few million of the local population, not just thousands, start glowing and bite the dust. Building them in low populated area in rural America won’t have the benefit of population control.
    when the China syndrome occurs, let’s make sure it is worthwhile.

  5. Let me be clear, I don’t drink Kool-aid. I believe “Global Warming” is nothing more than a bogus elitist shell game to screw the people out of trillions of dollars through bogus taxes and regulations. In other words a total scam. Like China and Russia, I laugh at the typical American taxpayers suckers who believe this nonsense. If Covid didn’t expose those elitist frauds nothing will.
    The fact that these frauds never mention the most efficient and greenest” form of energy on the planet – nuclear power – proves my point.
    Keep shipping that oil Russia. Keep building those coal plants China… at least you don’t buy into the lies you propagate. Makes some of those people feel good I guess.

    • One of the problems, if not the biggest, with nuclear power is the waste. We currently do not have a long term plan of what to do with the waste. This alone makes nuclear power the least “green” energy source available today, much worse than even coal. Unless of course you are good with irradiated zones scattered around the world where humans cannot go for generation upon generation…which might be just fine with some folks. What good does having nuclear power do if we can’t survive to use it? The second biggest problem is what happens when the fuel melts down at the nuclear plant itself, there are many sites around the world where we know what happens, see the aforementioned irradiated zones. Nuclear power might not have the carbon emissions of oil and gas, but it’s certainly not a zero emissions source of power when you count the mining and processing of uranium ore, just like windmills and solar panels there really is no such thing as green power unless you are talking about the money to be made.

      • True to some extent with old nuclear.
        The new Gen4 nuclear designs don’t have the meltdown problem.
        The important advantage of nuclear waste is its small size. Especially when compared to the large volume of waste created by worn-out solar panels (toxic) and worn-out windmill blades (not economic to recycle and not currently being recycled).
        That’s why all our current radioactive waste is stored in small areas at the existing plant sites. The long-term plan is to store it at small sites.
        Burning coal creates a large volume of toxic coal ash which is a big problem.
        The mining and processing for lithium batteries results in large volumes of toxic sludge. When the batteries wear out, they become unrecyclable toxic waste.
        Those batteries must be replaced every 5 to 10 years by additional mining.
        Wind and solar require converting large areas of undisturbed nature or agricultural areas into industrial sites. Windmills create large areas humans, birds and other animals cannot safely inhabit.
        There is no clean energy. Managed properly, nuclear compares well with the other energy forms in terms of a low impact on the environment.
        Natural gas also has a low environmental footprint.
        The French have the largest percentage of nuclear power. They just announce plans to build more nukes. Occasionally they get something right.

      • Actually, we had a plan for long term storage of nuke waste at Yucca Mountain. Harry Reid and the anti-nuke greens managed to kill it, so waste is stored on site like it has been for the last 40 years.

        The GenIV machines are pretty good. They are capable of using current light water waste as their fuel. What comes out the back end is pretty benign. Newer machines also burn thorium. India and China are leading the development, though the US is catching up quick.

        Biggest problem is cost, entirely in the regulatory world. NRC believes their job is to stretch out licensing and approvals so as to maintain their phony baloney jobs. This needs to be solved.

        There are at least one and maybe two GenIV reactors coming to Alaska. One at Eielson courtesy of Lisa. Copper Valley Electric is talking about a 30MW machine for their service area.

        Reactors are coming. And it is long past time. Cheers –

      • How are these micro reactors going to work in villages where keeping water from freezing is an annual event, what happens then? Sending connex sized nuclear bombs around the state and country really seems like a good plan to you guys?

      • One of the other problems with the GenIV machines is that even the tiny ones are too large in output for the basic village of a few hundred people. Current thinking is to place them in the larger towns and transmit the electricity / heat / products to surrounding smaller villages. Think of one in Barrow, Galena, Nome, Unalaska, Dillingham, etc.

        A reactor is a heat engine. Those that run generators use two thirds of total output to run the generators and the other third is waste heat that needs to be removed. The less electricity you generate, the more heat you get to use. You can do a LOT of things with excess heat in a larger community. For instance: heat tunnels for local buildings (like Elmendorf used to heat their buildings with), hatchery, greenhouse, a biomass to liquid (synthetic diesel) operation. There are more, but you get the idea.

        And a connex sized reactor is no more of a bomb than the fuel tank in your or any other vehicle. Anything happens to a GenIV machine, and is simply stops working and freezes to be shipped out on the next available truck or barge. Your concern and language is overblown and unhelpful. Like any power plant, a reactor will take some sort of care and maintenance, which already happens to generators and other engines in the Bush. They can do it if they want to. And excess heat in the cold country is not a bad approach. Cheers –

      • Agimarc,
        I don’t doubt that my language is unhelpful to those who are supporting sending connexes with nuclear reactors in them to the furthest reaches of humanity. As you said “Think of one in Barrow, Galena, Nome, Unalaska, Dillingham, etc.” Also, as you said “A reactor is a heat engine.” That’s exactly my point. A reactor needs to be cooled down or else it will melt down, if and when a reactor melts down, it is in absolutely no way similar to a regular power plant explosion or tanker truck full of fuel blowing up, absolutely no way similar. Do you know how much it would cost to run transmission lines out to even more remote villages for these hubs? Do you know how much it would cost to maintain those lines?

        Have you been out to these villages and seen the equipment that is being used, for the mst part they are diesel engines that people from Anchorage or Fairbanks fly out to service. Let’s think about who is going to be in these villages servicing these micro reactors, and how close the nearest help is. What happens when the cooling lines used to remove heat from the nuclear reactor freeze up or spring a leak and the weather is so poor it takes days to get to these remote sites. What happens when the next truck that comes along is the first truck because these villages are off the road system? What happens when the next barge is a month or 6 months away from getting in? Yeah, my concern and language is overblown and unhelpful…it’s frightening that someone pushing nuclear reactors would even make such a statement.

      • Ah, there’s the problem. You don’t understand how the GenIV reactors work. The older designs, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, all light water reactors need ACTIVE cooling. If the coolant isn’t circulated, the core overheats. The new designs power the cooling by passive circulation. As long as the reactor is powered up, the coolant circulates. When the circulation stops, the reactor stops. The system is self-contained. A bunch of the new designs use molten salt as a coolant. When power is off, it turns into a lump. These guys don’t melt down because they can’t.

        Yeah, logistics is important. If you have one of these, you have a single point failure. If you have several or combine it with backup generation, you have a more robust system, not unlike what Chugach does at Beluga or at the power plant behind their headquarters.

        Transmission runs $1 million / mile of line.

        Yeah, I understand who does the maintenance in the Bush and I’m not sympathetic. If you refuse to take care of yourself or your community, why should I care? A reactor is a better solution if for no other reason than it has fewer moving parts and requires less maintenance, which interestingly enough is why the IBEW is not supportive. You can run around all day and all night waving you arms what about this, what about that, but I’ve seen nothing about the GenIV machines that tell me they would do anything other than make things in the Bush a bit easier. Agree that all sorts of awfulness is possible, but that is the situation TODAY. Try as I might, I can’t see how plopping 5 – 10MW of heat into the Bush would do anything other than make things incrementally easier. But as usual, your mileage may vary.

        Thanks for the conversation. You really need to get smarter about the new tech before trashing it in public. Cheers –

      • Agimarc,
        Thanks for the limited information on how these new micro reactors are designed, but I reserve the right to ignorantly trash new unproven and potentially unsafe technology. How else am I to learn unless I dare to ignorantly challenge new and undefined thoughts? I will look into these new nukes more but just saying they are safe doesn’t quite make a believer out of me just yet, we were told the samething about all the current nuclear reactors and while for the most part they’ve proven safe…when they go bad they go really, really bad. Putting nuclear reactors in connexes and shipping them to remote inhospitable places doesn’t make sense currently and probably never will, it’s a much worse idea than putting windmills and solar panels in remote places. There are micro turbines that can run on diesel and would make much more sense as they could be flown in on small planes and would be sized for the village with no need for expensive transmission lines. Speaking of expensive transmission lines, the million dollars a mile for transmission line is the cost for installation on the railbelt not the cost in remote Alaska, the costs go up significantly the further you get away from the population base.

      • Agimarc,
        Sort of reminds me of how hydroxy chloroquin and ivermectin were going to save the world….

      • Agimarc- color me highly skeptical ( and uniformed about new tech ) im completely against nuclear.- but you nearly convinced me ! Definitely looks reasonable and you sound knowledgeable. Im going to study up . Thanks for informing us ! Dave Mc – wouldn’t people 200 years ago say to people to today about our tech and medical inventions “you guys are dreaming never going to be power from rocks !) steve -0 , i find myself agreeing with you alot recently but agimarc has a point- just because a village is disfunctional today doesn’t mean it should stay that way. ( he said it a little different but meaning is the same)

      • DaveMc – good point, though there are still docs who prescribe both and pharmacies that dispense both.

        Never will comprehend the widespread and orchestrated hostility to therapeutics. Even the emergency authorization for monoclonal antibodies which we KNOW works was withdrawn by the FDA last month.

        Yet another example of why governments are the very worst entity to manage this sort of stuff. Cheers –

    • C’mon Bryan, you know the globe has been warming since the last Ice Age. It’s why the glaciers have shrunk, and why we have moose above the Arctic Circle in Alaska.

      • Craig, all part of a nature cycle.. now to address your above question we have data going back 800,000 years that was gathered from drilling core samples from deep underneath the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Detailed information on air temperature and CO2 levels disproves that a rise in CO2 will cause a rise in temperature. The core samples from EPICA Dome C ice core on the Antarctic Plateau establish that temperature rises first and CO2 level follow in a lagging manner. All of this was well before human kind. So is it the chicken or the egg? Which comes first?
        Of course you get the usual scientific spin of today added for good measure. $$$$

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