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Russia sees climate change as an economic blessing

The Arctic ice melt opens up some shipping and commerce opportunities, but there are costs that no one wants to talk about.

by VICE News
Mar 8 2018, 5:00pm

Entering the thinning ice of the Northern Sea route, a legendary shipping lane that traverses Russia's northern coast. (Jake Burghart/VICE News.)

While many parts of the world are struggling from catastrophic effects of climate change, Russia is looking to capitalize on it, with the Kremlin driving a narrative that touts the economic benefits.

Like more and faster access to petroleum and mineral reserves that were previously unreachable. The Northern Sea Passage, a legendary shipping lane along Russia’s Arctic coastline, has been largely inaccessible for part of the year because of dense sea ice. But now, that ice is melting, opening up a new trade route for Russia's cargo ships. Russian oil companies are already betting big on the new reserves they hope to find in the Russian Arctic, and other industries — like mining — are ramping up production since they now have faster shipping routes to many ports.

“The problem of climate change is actually the problem of adaptation to climate change. This is not a tragedy,” said Nobel Prize-winning climatologist Oleg Anisimov. “Certainly some places will become unlivable, but other areas are places that will become more livable.”

But the Russian people seem unaware, or unconcerned, about the environmental impacts of these climate change-related activities, like pollution from the booming factories, and wildfires in the North that destroyed million of acres of forest in a major tourism area.

VICE’s Gianna Toboni visited Russia's Arctic to see just how big the country is betting on climate change.

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