Putin’s signed climate pact, but is warm­ing up to melt­ing of Arc­tic

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport -

The world is seen to be di­vided be­tween those who be­lieve and those who don’t — in the dan­gers of climate change. At the one end, there are the climate change de­niers, like Don­ald Trump, and at the other end, there are those like young Greta Thun­berg who be­lieve the end of the world is nigh.

Some­where in be­tween, a grow­ing space is be­ing carved out by those who see climate change not as a threat but as an op­por­tu­nity. Vladimir Putin, for in­stance, has grad­u­ated from dis­miss­ing climate change as a hoax to mak­ing it work to Rus­sia’s ad­van­tage. “The is­sue,” he has said, “is not stop­ping it be­cause that’s im­pos­si­ble, since it could be tied to some global cy­cles on Earth or of planetary sig­nif­i­cance. … The is­sue is to some­how adapt to it.”

The so-called prag­ma­tists who oc­cupy the ‘ mid­dle ground’ are guided in their ap­proach by two im­por­tant prin­ci­ples — of adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion. Away from the noise and drama that was gen­er­ated this week at the UNGA, is a real-world ef­fort to ex­ploit un­ex­pected op­por­tu­ni­ties that climate change may be throw­ing up.

Putin signed the Paris Ac­cord on climate change this year. But as the Bar­ents Sea and the Arc­tic thaws faster than an­tic­i­pated, Rus­sia is gear­ing up to mon­e­tise the po­ten­tially lu­cra­tive North­ern Sea Route (NSR), which could make con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween Europe and Asia 40% faster, cheaper, more fuel ef­fi­cient, and greener. Rus­sia will lose land as the per­mafrost thaws, but it may gain nearly 1.2m sqkm in its con­ti­nen­tal shelf, which means it will have rights to ex­tract un­der-sea min­er­als and en­ergy re­sources.

As the ice caps melt and the Arc­tic be­comes eco­nom­i­cally vi­able to nav­i­gate, Rus­sia is mil­i­taris­ing rapidly to pro­tect its huge in­vest­ments in the re­gion. It now has seven bases along the ship­ping route, the lat­est be­ing North­ern Clover on Kotelny Is­land, deep in­side the Arc­tic.

Den­mark is also hop­ing to ex­ploit the faster-than-ex­pected warm­ing of its own north­ern­most ter­ri­tory, Green­land. Fish catch has im­proved as Green­land gets ac­cess to more fresh wa­ter. But more sig­nif­i­cantly, as the ice cap melts, Green­land is find­ing that its ter­ri­tory holds huge amounts of ura­nium and likely

A key ship­ping lane is the North­ern Sea Route (NSR), which runs from the Bar­ents Sea, near Rus­sia’s bor­der with Nor­way, to the Ber­ing Strait be­tween Siberia and Alaska

Ex­perts say the NSR could re­duce the travel dis­tance from east Asia to Europe from the 21,000 kilo­me­tres it takes to go via the Suez Canal, to 12,800 kilo­me­tres, cut­ting

No. of ves­sels pass­ing through the NSR

the world’s sec­ond-largest stock of rare earth el­e­ments, used for man­u­fac­tur­ing all mod­ern gad­gets.

C Raja Mo­han, di­rec­tor, In­sti­tute of South Asian Stud­ies, Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore, told TOI, “As the world strug­gles to de­velop col­lec­tive ac­tion against climate change within the strat­egy laid out by UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Climate Change, there is in­evitable adap­ta­tion to the con­se­quences. Some are look­ing at am­bi­tious geo­engi­neer­ing projects to limit so­lar en­ergy ra­di­a­tion on the earth. Where the im­pact of climate change is ev­i­dent, as in the Arc­tic, coun­tries are jock­ey­ing for ad­van­tage. When col­lec­tive so­lu­tions can’t be agreed upon, all ma­jor coun­tries will be­gin to play for them­selves. The con­se­quences could be un­pre­dictable.”

Sin­ga­pore is look­ing at $100 bil­lion in in­vest­ments to fight climate change — one con­se­quence of which will be ris­ing sea lev­els — in­clud­ing build­ing flood-re­silient sys­tems. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi is of the same mind as In­dia in­au­gu­rated a mul­ti­lat­eral ef­fort to build dis­as­ter-re­silient in­fras­truc­ture in New York this week; it could not only ben­e­fit islands like Mal­dives and Mau­ri­tius, which face sub­mer­sion, but also gen­er­ate eco­nomic ben­e­fits for oth­ers. Namibia is the hub for south African coun­tries try­ing to ap­ply climate-re­silient so­lu­tions to city-level prob­lems. All of th­ese have eco­nomic and com­mer­cial spinoffs. New fi­nan­cial tools, like “sov­er­eign para­met­ric in­sur­ance”, are be­ing de­vel­oped to help coun­tries re­build af­ter climate disas­ters, like Hur­ri­cane Do­rian that swept through the Ba­hamas showed.

At the UN climate sum­mit this week, Modi, who has po­si­tioned him­self as a climate war­rior, took a proac­tive tone. “Science tells us that on our cur­rent path, we face at least 3°C of global heat­ing by the end of the cen­tury. The climate emer­gency is a race we are los­ing, but can win,” he said.

The ‘prag­ma­tists’, though, are prob­a­bly more in­ter­ested in win­ning the race to ex­ploit the op­por­tu­ni­ties aris­ing out of climate change.

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