04/17/2021, 16.45
RUSSIA
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As Siberian ice melts faster and faster, environmental disasters become more likely

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Summer warming usually left moisture in the frozen ground; now droughts and forest fires are more likely. The Arctic Ocean could warm up more easily. Over the past 10 years, local temperatures have risen by 0.51 degree. In Russia, the greenhouse effect could be three times worse than in the rest of the world.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The impact of the greenhouse effect on temperatures Russia is three times higher than in the rest of the world (0.51 degree higher in the last 10 years against 0.18). If the Russian government does not quickly adopt further measures, the disaster will be inevitable and imminent, this according to Vladimir Katsov, director of the Voeikov Main Geophysical Observatory in St Petersburg.

According to Katsov's data on the effect of global warming in Russia published on 15 April, in particular in relation to the Arctic region and Siberia, the ice cover on the North Sea route has been steadily shrinking since the 1980s, so much so that at the end of the summer it is open to navigation; in the past, icebreakers were needed.

On land, the warming process is thawing the ground in warm seasons while in the past, it remained frozen retaining moisture. Rapid thaw is likely to cause drought in the southern territories of the country.

Across Russia, particularly in the great expanses of northern Siberia, the usual snowy landscape lasts less and less; the thaw starts already in April, despite greater snow accumulations and earlier freezing of the large rivers, between October and November.

“The end of the winter season in Russia is coming sooner and sooner, as a result of a process called arctic amplification; in the Arctic, many effects of warming are intensifying,” said Polina Karkina, Greenpeace Russia’s coordinator for climate and energy.

Arctic snow has a great capacity to reflect sunlight. This prevents light from warming ocean waters. As snow melts, the dark surface of the seas is laid bare, absorbing light and heat. On land, this causes vast forest fires, which release greenhouse gases into the air, making the global process even worse.

“Methane is released in the air, causing a negative feedback loop so that global warming develops in a non-linear way, first slower, then faster and faster,” explains Karkina.

For noted climatologist Aleksey Kokorin, director of the WWF’s climate programme, “the northern hemisphere is warming much faster than the southern hemisphere.”

In Russia the effect is particularly significant since its vast continental territory occupies one sixth of the earth’s land surface. “Unlike Europe, the ocean does not remove heat from the mainland; therefore, temperatures are rising much faster,” Kokorin adds.

In Siberia summers have never been so warm, but Russians should not rejoice. Global temperatures have risen by about 1 degree in the last 50 years, but in Russia they have gone up by 2 and a half degrees. According to experts, this trend will continue in the coming years.

For Kokorin, “If humanity commits to reducing harmful emissions as announced, the rise in global temperatures will be limited to 2 degrees, but for Russia that will mean 5-6 degrees, a level that is just bearable, but still harmful to our infrastructure and agriculture.”

If nothing is done, temperatures will rise by 10-12 degrees in a few decades, and that will be catastrophic. According to scientists, if temperatures rise by up to 4 degrees, the resulting changes will be difficult for humans to cope with.

As the ice melts, more and more water will evaporate, and there will be less and less drinking water. Global sea level will rise, and islands, like those the Caribbean, could disappear. Central Asia could be affected by droughts, which are already happening at present.

Many countries are implementing important steps; others are not. The gap between them could undermine the efforts of the most virtuous countries, which Russia would like to join.

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