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21 Jul, 2021 12:32

‘Climate change is happening’: As wildfires destroy hectares of Siberian forest, local politician points finger at global warming

The wildfires in Russia’s Yakutia region are caused by climate change, which has led to abnormally hot weather and ‘dry thunderstorms.’ That’s according to Aysen Nikolayev, the head of the vast republic located in eastern Siberia.

Speaking to the local TV Channel Yakutia-24, Nikolayev noted that the region’s average temperature in June was 20C – far higher than it should be. His statement comes as many Russian politicians, including President Vladimir Putin, have upped their rhetoric on fighting global warming in recent months.

“Global climate change is happening,” the head explained. “This year is the driest and hottest summer that Yakutia has had in the history of meteorological observations since the end of the 19th century. This is the data of the meteorological service, which can’t be refuted.”

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“In June, we had less than 2mm of precipitation, while the norm is 37mm. This is 18 times less,” he continued.

Yakutia, known worldwide for its frigid temperatures, is located around 5,000 kilometers east of Moscow. It is the home of the world’s coldest permanently inhabited settlement, Oymyakon. The village, which has around 500 residents, regularly sees temperatures drop below -40C in winter.

However, in recent times, the region has become home to incredible heat and devastating wildfires. Known by some as ‘the lungs of Russia,’ Yakutia has 265.1 million hectares of land covered by trees. This summer alone, flames have destroyed 1.5 million hectares of forest. According to estimates from the weekend, the extent of the wildfire has now been reduced to around 18,420 hectares.

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Last year, a Yakutian town broke the record for the highest temperature ever recorded within the Arctic Circle, hitting a maximum of 38C. Verkhoyansk, in the far north, often dips to lows of -50C in winter.

Speaking last year to the Valdai Club think tank, Putin called for an end to “unrestrained and unlimited consumption,” noting that tensions regarding climate change had “reached a critical point.”

“It affects pipeline systems, residential districts built on permafrost, and so on,” Putin explained. “If as much as 25% of the near-surface layers of permafrost – which is about three or four meters – melts by 2100, we will feel the effect very strongly.”

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