These are dangerous days for the climate. Not only do we have a climate denier in the White House, we have one in the Kremlin too.
At the end of last week, whilst visiting the Arctic, Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that global warming was not caused by humans: “The warming, it had already started by the 1930s,” he said, before adding: “That’s when there were no such anthropological factors, such emissions, and the warming had already started.”
In comments that will alarm many, Putin said that trying to curtail climate change was not a priority, adaption was the key: “The issue is not stopping it… because that’s impossible, since it could be tied to some global cycles on Earth or even of planetary significance. The issue is to somehow adapt to it.”
Commentators have pointed out that this seems to be a dangerous U-turn by Putin, and in direct contrast to his speech made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015, when he said: “The quality of life of all people on the planet depends on solving the climate problem.”
Environmentalists will also be alarmed that Putin seemed to endorse Scott Pruitt, with the Russian President arguing that Pruitt’s views deserve “were not so stupid”. “Positions and suggestions of those who don’t agree with their opponents are not so stupid,” Putin said. “God grant him health and success, everybody should listen to one another and only then you can find an optimal solution to the problem.”
Pruitt for his part, under pressure from a Fox News host, yesterday acknowledged that humans are contributing to climate change. “There’s a warming trend, the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that change in some measure,” Pruitt was forced to concede, before adding: “The real issue is how much we contribute to it and measuring that with precision.”
There is a crude self-interest for Putin with climate change. The more the Arctic region melts, the more he believes it could be exploited for oil. Whilst other leaders at the Arctic meeting warned of the dangers of climate change, for example the Finnish Prime Minister Sauli Niinisto labelling it a “serious threat”, Putin argued global warming brings “more propitious conditions for using this region for economic ends.”
He added that the melting of the Arctic was beneficial to Russia’s GDP and “improves the economic potential of this region”.
And you can see why Putin thinks climate change is good. As an article in the New Scientist pointed out last month, “Russia’s economy is a basket case. Apart from oil and gas, it produces little anyone wants to buy … Without restructuring, a global clean energy revolution will likely put the Russian economy in a death spiral.”