Russia has published a plan to adapt its economy and population to climate change, aiming to mitigate damage but also “use the advantages” of warmer temperatures.
The document, published on the government’s website on Saturday, outlines a plan of action and acknowledges changes to the climate are having a “prominent and increasing effect” on socioeconomic development, people’s lives, health and industry.
Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the planet as a whole, on average, and the two-year “first stage” plan is an indication the government officially recognises this as a problem, even though Vladimir Putin denies human activity is the cause.
It lists preventive measures such as dam building or switching to more drought-resistant crops, as well as crisis preparations including emergency vaccinations or evacuations in case of a disaster.
The plan says climate change poses risks to public health, endangers permafrost, and increases the likelihood of infections and natural disasters. It also can lead to species being pushed out of their usual habitats.
Possible “positive” effects are decreased energy use in cold regions, expanding agricultural areas and navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean.
Among a list of 30 measures, the government will calculate the risks of Russian products becoming uncompetitive and failing to meet new climate-related standards, as well as prepare new educational materials to teach climate change in schools.
Russia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with vast Arctic regions and infrastructure built over permafrost. Recent floods and wildfires have been among the planet’s worst climate-related disasters.
Moscow formally adopted the Paris climate accord in September last year and criticised the US withdrawal from the pact.
Putin, however, has repeatedly denied the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily caused by emissions deriving from human activity, blaming it last month on some “processes in the universe”.
He has also criticised the Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, describing her as an uninformed, impressionable teenager possibly being “used” in someone’s interests.
He has also voiced scepticism on numerous occasions about solar and wind energy, expressing alarm about the dangers of turbines to birds and worms, causing them to “come out of the ground” by vibrating. While there is evidence that large wind-power installations can pose a risk to birds, known research does not suggest they harm worms.
On Sunday, Russia’s meteorological service predicted temperatures up to 16C higher than normal for Monday and Tuesday, when Russia celebrates Orthodox Christmas.