Global warming leaves Russians cold
Over half of Russians asked about global warming say they haven't
heard much about it, according to a BBC World Service poll of 22,000
people in 21 countries.
The Russian media focus on what seem to be more pressing problems.
There are burning social issues, there's uncertainty about the
security, there's a falling-out with the West, and, crucially, it is a
very cold country.
A meteorologist in Arkhangelsk, in the north of Russia, once told me:
"I know global warming is a problem, but I would welcome a bit of warmth
up here. Then I could grow my own tomatoes."
We spoke as we stood on ice in the middle of the frozen Dvina river.
The temperature was approaching -25C.
This meteorologist is by no means the only person in Russia to think
this way. His view virtually mirrors the state's official position. "We
are not panicking. Global warming is not as catastrophic for us as it
might be for some other countries," Rinat Gizatullin, a spokesman for
the Natural Resources Ministry, says.
"If anything, we'll be even better off: as the climate warms, more of
Russia's territory will be freed up for agriculture and industry."
Alexey Kokorin of WWF in Russia says Russians who are aware of global
warming tend to live in some of the worst affected areas, such as
Siberia, with its melting permafrost, or the Caucasus, with its regular
The real problem, Mr Kokorin says, is not that people don't know
what's going on, it is that they have some of the "weirdest ideas about
what causes global warming, and they don't feel the need to change
The government says it is trying to educate people. But, so far, most
of the steps that have been taken have been aimed at businesses, not at
Russia has signed up to the Kyoto treaty, and the country is now
expecting millions of dollars' worth of investment.
Moscow's hope is that Western polluters will be queuing up to buy its
carbon emission quotas. The money will then go into improving
infrastructure and energy efficiency.
This approach alone - focusing more on the economy than ecology - may
not convince Russians that the whole world is heating up. But at least
it will give the issue more prominence.