Melting Permafrost Could Cost Russian Economy $67Bln by 2050

The Russian economy could lose more than 5 trillion rubles ($67 billion) by 2050 due to melting permafrost damage to infrastructure, Russian environmental minister Alexander Kozlov told his audience at the 9th Nevsky International Ecological Congress in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

Approximately 65% of Russian territory is covered by permafrost – the upper layer of soil that stays frozen year-round, sometimes for thousands of years. Climate change is causing the permafrost to melt rapidly with catastrophic effects on the infrastructure. Around 23% of technical failures and 29% of loss in fossil fuel extraction are caused by permafrost degradation, Alexander Kozlov said.

“There are problems with building new railway lines and roads. We estimate that more than 40% of buildings and infrastructure facilities in permafrost-covered areas have already been damaged,” the minister said.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry aims to create a system for monitoring climate-induced permafrost damage, Alexander Kozlov said. By July 30 the State Duma is expected to receive the bill from the ministry to create the system. By 2024 the government hopes to work out technologies and methods for permafrost observation. After that, monitoring would begin.

Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the planet as a whole. Permafrost melting could bring agriculture into Arctic regions, but it could also make Russian ecosystems barely recognizable. By 2100 St. Petersburg and Moscow could be surrounded by temperate deserts, and the tundra could disappear entirely, scientists at Aalto University predict.

Melting Arctic Forces Polar Bears to Adapt to Land-Based Diet – Russian Scientists

Polar bears are being forced to adapt to a land-based diet as their hunting grounds in the rapidly melting Arctic shrink, Russian scientists said Friday on the eve of International Polar Bear Day.

Polar bears have been forced south by rising temperatures and melting ice cover, limiting their ability to hunt seals and walruses and increasing encounters with human settlements.

Researchers have in recent years observed fewer malnourished polar bears than previously recorded, said Ilya Mordvintsev of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“Their behavior suggests that they are finding ways to adapt onshore,” Interfax quoted Mordvintsev, a senior researcher at the Academy’s Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, as saying.

Polar bears are growing bulkier because they have begun to actively catch fish, oxen and geese, said Alexander Gruzdev, who heads the Wrangel Island Nature Reserve in the remote Chukotka autonomous district that is home to some 800 polar bears.

“When there was a large number of lemmings, the bears dug through the entire tundra digging them out and waiting out the ice-free period,” Interfax quoted Gruzdev as saying.

Mordvintsev said scientists are unable to calculate the current polar bear population due to the Arctic’s vast size and inaccessibility, the state-run TASS news agency reported.

Russia’s Natural Resources and Environment Ministry plans to carry out regional polar bear population counts and combine the data in 2024, according to TASS.

Polar bears, with a global population of up to 30,000, are listed by the World Wildlife Foundation as vulnerable and are listed in Russia’s Red Book of rare and endangered species.

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