What does a world with one degree of warming look like?
Something like the unfolding tragedy in Russia.
Buried within the middle pages of most newspapers you may have come across some scattered references to the Russian heat wave, forest fires and drought. It is a sad indictment of our media that what is perhaps one of the worst human tragedies of this year has barely received sporadic and insubstantial coverage.
Russia: a climate tragedy
Reports from Russia indicate that the death toll resulting from fires, accidents and from the heat itself will most likely exceed 15,000. Climate Progress reports:
“The heat wave began on June 27. These grim statistics suggest that in Moscow alone, the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010 has likely killed at least 7,000 people so far. A plot of the departure of July 2010 temperatures from average (Figure 1) shows that the area of Russia experiencing incredible heat is vast, and that regions southeast of Moscow have the hottest, relative to average. Moscow is the largest city in Russia, with a population just over ten million, but there are several other major cities in the heat wave region. These include Saint Petersburg, Russia’s 2nd most populous city (4.6 million), and Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s 5th most populous city (1.3 million people.) Thus, the Russian population affected by extreme heat is at least double the population of Moscow, and the death toll in Russia from the 2010 heat wave is probably at least 15,000, and may be much higher..”
As noted yesterday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has no qualms in laying the blame on global warming.
Grain harvest devastated, people flee Moscow and fires threaten nuclear facilities
The brief references in Western media due scant justice to the scale of the tragedy engulfing Russia.
Together they give some sense of the enormity of what is taking place…
So bad are is the smoke from the fires that over 100,000 people have fled Moscow:
“A record number of passengers flew out of Moscow’s airports as residents scrambled to escape thick, acrid smoke from bushfires east of the capital that has doubled the death rate.
More than 104,400 people flew out of Moscow on Sunday, topping the previous record of 101,000, according to the Federal Air Transportation Agency.
The heatwave that has affected Moscow since June combined with smoke nearly doubled the city’s death rate to 700 a day from 360-380 in normal conditions, Interfax reported, citing Andrei Seltsovsky, head of the city’s public health department…”
Due to the heat and extreme drought conditions, there are fears Russia’s grain harvest could decline by 38%:
“Russia’s grain harvest in 2010 may total just 60 million metric tons, or 38% less than last year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at a government presidium meeting.
“According to the latest Agriculture Ministry forecasts, the harvest will be much more modest than we assumed at the beginning of the year. It could total 65 or even 60 million tons,” Putin said, adding that Russia’s domestic grain requirements for 2010 amounted to 78 million tons…”
The Russian’s may not starve, but as a consequence food prices across the globe will rise. The world’s poor will feel the impact directly, as many will struggle to feed themselves and their families.
Of concern, the fires are threatening nuclear facilities:
Emergency regulations over the threat of spreading wildfires were enforced late on Monday in the town of Ozersk in the Chelyabinsk region, where one of Russia’s largest nuclear-waste plants is located.
The Mayak plant, which makes tritium and radioisotopes from decommissioned weapons and waste from nuclear reactors, is about 80 kilometres (about 50 miles) from the town of Snezhinsk where a forest fire has recently threatened a major nuclear research center.
While more than 230,000 emergency service personal have been deployed to fight fires raging across the country:
Hundreds of thousands of fire-fighters reinforced with army troops on Saturday battled forest fires sweeping across central Russia, burning down villages and claiming some 30 lives.
With more than 120 hectares (about 300,000 acres) in flames, 238,000 fire-fighters were deployed in 14 regions, along with 25,000 vehicles and 226 aircraft, the emergency situations ministry said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the fires “a natural disaster,” in televised comments on receiving a report from Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov with some 2,000 troops joining efforts to tackle the blazes.
Is global warming to blame?
Obviously we can’t point at Russia’s heat wave and say with 100% certainty that global warming is to blame. However, the events in Russia were predicted. As Canadian journalist Gwynne Dyer notes in a recent article notes:
“It cannot be proved that the wildfires now devastating western Russia are evidence of global warming. Once-in-a-century extreme weather events happen, on average, once a century. But the Russian response is precisely what you would expect when global warming really starts to bite: Moscow has just banned all grain exports for the rest of this year…”
And for those who doubt the ability of climate scientists to make predictions:
“…Late last year, Britain’s Hadley Centre for Climate Change produced a world map showing how different countries will be affected by the rise in average global temperature over the next 50 years. The European countries that the Hadley map predicts will be among the hardest hit — Greece, Spain and Russia — are precisely the ones have suffered most from extreme heat, runaway forest fires and wildfires in the past few years.
The main impact of global warming on human beings will be on the food supply, and eating is a non-negotiable activity.
Today Russia, tomorrow the world.”