Good question! Unfortunately, they’ll have no choice but to adapt. Russia is the largest energy exporter in the world, so quite a bit of its economy relies on fossil fuel production. This will be affected greatly. Also, much of Russia is in a state of permafrost, which is melting quickly. Finally, the construction of many buildings and infrastructure in much of Russia is very poor, as a result of Soviet-era and transition era policies and methodology–it is very poorly-suited to extreme weather events!
Can they? Sure. Will they? That is another question. Russia’s relationship with climate change mitigation is particularly difficult for two main reasons. First, the Russians seem to be resisting efforts to remediate it. Although Russia signed the 1997 Kyoto Accords, the Russian government has expressed unwillingness to implement tougher CO2 emissions standards in 2012 when Kyoto expires. The Russians were not especially helpful at the 2009 climate change talks in Copenhagen. Secondly, global warming impacts Russia in some ways more severely than other countries: it’s colder there and a greater portion of Russia’s surface is tundra and permafrost, environments that are being hit very hard by climate change. Add to this the fact that Russia has a lot of economic problems, and there are incentives to increase economic activity in the short term which usually means greater greenhouse gas emissions especially in a country where much of the infrastructure is clunky Soviet-era stuff that was constructed with absolutely no regard for environmental consequences. My personal belief is that Russia will not be a major player in climate change mitigation until such time as there’s a political change in Russia’s leadership. Since the Yeltsin era, Russia has been politically dominated by veterans of the Soviet system (Putin, for example, was former KGB) and there are still numerous issues, including significant environmental issues, lingering after the 1991 collapse of Communism there. Until the thinking at the top changes and those issues are addressed, I think Russia’s relationship with climate change is going to continue to be a rocky one.
As jvanderlee pointed out, Russia is in a position where climate change will cause significant damage not only on its climate, as much of it is in a polar region, which is expected to be hit first and hardest by climate change, but also to its economy. There was a ray of hope toward the end of 2009, however, when Russian officials drafted a document that predicts the damage Russia will incur as well as measures that might be taken. Unfortunately as yet the measures are more duck-and-cover-minded, when they should be aimed at prevention and improvement. Still it is an acknowledgement by the Russian Government that climate change is happening, which is more than had happened before.
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