Thursday, February 22, 2007

Getting too hot?

"Russia is a northern country and if temperatures get warmer by two or three degrees Celsius it's not that bad - we could spend less on warm coats and agricultural experts say that grain harvests would increase further." Thus, Russian president Vladimir Putin jokingly put it in 2003, opening a major international conference on climate change in Moscow. For long, Russia was hesitant to signing the Kyoto protocol on global climate change, before Moscow eventually subdued to international pressure in 2004.

Let's face it: Environmentalism is simply not something one would expect from Putin and his crowd of siloviki and oil barons. As Russia signed the Kyoto protocol in November 2004, it was against the strong advice of both the Ministry for Industry and Energy and the Russian Academy of Sciences. In exchange, Moscow received EU support for Russia's admission to the WTO, why the Kremlin probably considered the deal a fair trade. Warm feelings for preventing the greenhouse effect had little to do with Putin's position on Kyoto.

Russia's traditionally energy intensive industries would normally vouch for a negative stance on limiting the country's greenhouse gas emissions. However, this has posed no great problem for Russia, as the Kyoto protocol is calculated on the 1990 emission levels. Given the economic and industrial collapse of the early 1990s, Russia still has a long way to go before reaching such levels again. Instead, it has been argued that the country might actually benefit from the Kyoto protocol by selling emissions credits to other countries. With the current economic boom in Russia, though, the deal is increasingly questioned for concerns that it might hamper industrial growth. Not surprisingly, the mighty energy sector is one of the greatest critics of the Kyoto protocol. However, this might paradoxically become the opposite in a few years' time.

Yesterday, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom declared that its export of natural gas to Europe had decreased by 16%, as compared to the same period last year. The reason for Gazprom's drop in output was evidently warmer weather in Europe, leading to decreased consumer demand. Also, exports to the FSU dropped by 15%, and the supply to Russian consumers by 11% during the same period.

While it is still too early to say whether this winter's mild weather is due to global warming, it is quite clear that if this tendency would become permanent in years to come, it would have a grossly negative impact on international gas demand and prizes. One obvious loser of such a development would be Russia's energy sector, which constitutes the engine for the country's economic growth. Thus, if global heating would put a check on energy prizes, Russia's energy-dependent economy is a candidate for severe crisis.

So, should we expect Gazprom executives to turn into ardent environmentalists? Will Ivanov and Medvedev campaign to stop global warming for next year's presidential elections? Most probably not! Still, one never knows. When it comes to realities, Russian politicians are usually swift to change opinions if money is at stake. If plunging energy prizes would hit Russian pockets, we might witness an eventual shift in Kremlin views on global warming. As we have still to see the true consequences of the greenhouse effect, it remains uncertain how fast an impact it will have on global temperature levels. The forms of and extent to which global warming will affect Russia is thus for the future to decide.

8 comments:

olechko said...

xoxoxo, this man is so photogenic!! I like the pic you chose to illustrate your post.

I lipped out when heard his comment Russia would benefit from temperature rise! Absolutely fantastic!

Megan Case said...

That photo is photoshopped, right? Right??

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Megan,

The photo has, as far as I know, not undergone manipulation by way of Photoshop or something similar. As far as I recollect, it is an excerpt of a new year's greeting to Russian factory workers, minors, or something similar.

I would not be surprised if the photo actually is an original depiction of Putin. I mean, the guy spends as much time as he can training instead of tending to his presidential chores.

Yours,

Vilhelm

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Olechko,

I'm happy that you enjoyed the photo and the Putin quote. The only thing I am sorry about is how few anecdotes there - until recently - have been on Putin in comparison with the potential of the subject.

I know, people joke about Putin, but judging from all the funny things he says and does, it should really be on the level of the Yeltsin anecdotes during his reign.

Yours,

Vilhelm

Megan Case said...

"the guy spends as much time as he can training instead of tending to his presidential chores."

Another thing he and his American counterpart have in common.

But, he looks so small and wimpy in his business suits! Which I always thought he was compensating for by tough talk.

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

Link: http://russophobe.blogspot.com/2007/02/konnander-says-russia-is-toasted-by.html

Is there a cooperation between you and 'La Russophobe' I haven't been yet aware of ? What a pity to see your blog in the context with 'La Russophobe'.

Regards
Sergej

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Sergej,

Having not had time to catch up on blog comments lately, I however feel that I must respond to your question on La Russophobe.

No, there is no connection whatsoever between myself and La Russophobe. Whatever made you think so?

La Russophobe is as much a mystery to me as "she" is to all other bloggers out there. Whatever drives a person to such hatred, I simply cannot understand. That La Russophobe links to things I have written is nothing I can do much about, and I'm surely not going to enter into an endless and fruitless debate on Russophobia vs. Russophilia. It's simply not a relevant question from where I stand.

That I am critical to Putin's reign should come as no surprise to you by now. I simply feel that Putin, in many ways, is bad for Russia and its peoples, and I hope for a change. This doesn't mean that I necessarily believe that everything Putin has done for Russia is bad. Far from it, and I hope that you understand that I try to present a more nuanced picture of developments in Russia than that. Still, my overall view of Putin's reign is, I'm sorry to say, negative.

Obviously, you also keep on reading my blog, so it can't be that bad, unless you do it to get stimulated from being provoked by ideas and thoughts different from yours. In a way, that wouldn't be so bad though, as the discussion it leads to would constitute an element of the sort of "open society" that I'm a great supporter of.

Yours,

Vilhelm

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

Dear Vilhelm,

I do read your blog and I openly admit that I am interested in what you write. I do not think that your blog is bad, but me reading a blog is no indication of its quality.

Although I am thinking that you are wrong in your view on Putin, and being convinced that your rejection of the person 'Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin' strongly influences your view and affects the objectivity of your view, I am criticising the message, not the messenger.

As to 'La Russophobe' I again have to say the following.

In my opinion anybody permitting him- or herself to be put in a context with 'La Russophobe', or anywhere near 'her', risks losing the reputation of being a serious or balanced commenter or 'expert'. Silence indicates approval.

One day I might feel the need the publish a text on homosexuality or racism on my blog. I would strongly oppose any copying, proliferation or 'out of context' publishing of my work on any hate-site, KKK membership journal or media with a homophobic or racist agenda. Would I remain silent after recognizing that my text / work is being used / misused by any of these 'media', I would risk to give myself the aura of being a supporter, a like-minded individual or a follower of these people.

I would openly publish my rejection, call for the cancelling or withdrawl of the post and indicate that I am in no way affiliated with the source of the post.

But this is me, you may of course pursue your own path and will therefore have to accept possible consequences. Just like 'Siberian Light' has lost much if its formerly good reputation after publishing an interview with 'La Russophobe', your blog might lose its reputation of providing a balanced view on Russia.

Regards

Sergej