Russia, the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, has always taken a skeptical view of climate change. In the wake of last summer’s fires, public opinion is shifting.
In the past, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has joked that global warming would mean that Russians would buy fewer fur coats and enjoy longer growing seasons. But after the fires, he and many Russians are taking a more open-minded view of the impact of humans on their climate.
At a recent conference here on the Arctic, he surprised visiting scientists by supporting research into theories that burning hydrocarbons is causing a dangerous build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Referring to global warming, he asked: “How are we influencing the speed of this process?”
Last summer’s record high temperatures did not just bring Miami heat to Moscow. Droughts destroyed one third of the nation’s grain crops, causing $1.3 billion in losses to farmers.