As wildfires rage, Siberia feels the brunt of climate change.
Alexander Fyodorov looked out his office window at the huge forests surrounding the Siberian city of Yakutsk, where wildfires had been raging for weeks.
For the first time this summer, the sky in the world’s coldest city was not enveloped in a sepia orange toxic haze caused by the third year of more enormous fires.
Many people in Yakutia, also known as Sakha in Turkic, believe that nature is a living soul that will keep humanity in harmony.
Fyodorov, on the other hand, advised against what he called a “false trust.”
“What nature has given us – last year, this year – is a reminder that we should not place our hopes in nature,” said Fyodorov, deputy head of Yakutsk’s Melnikov Permafrost Institute.
“It’s time to get to work.”
According to Fyodorov, Yakutia, which borders the Arctic Ocean and lies on permafrost on an area nearly five times the size of France, is a canary in the coal mine for the global climate problem.
Since the turn of the century, the region’s yearly average temperature has risen by 3 degrees Celsius – 2 degrees higher than the global average – and this summer saw many days with record heat of 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit).
While it’s impossible to correlate specific flames to climate change, researchers argue that global warming makes blazes more likely because harsher and longer droughts dry out regions, creating ideal fire conditions.
According to local officials, this summer was Yakutia’s driest in 150 years, and the region became a tinderbox, with flames ravaging more than 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of the swampy taiga forest.
According to Alexander Isayev, a wildfire researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk, “the present fires are breaking every record.”
With little than a month left in Siberia’s usual wildfire season, officials have hastened to put out the fires, dispatching the military and seeding clouds to bring rain.
However, in Yakutia, a territory with a population of just under one million people, the majority of the task has fallen to thousands of exhausted firefighters and local volunteers, who are working with little resources.
According to AFP, Nikita Andreyev, the head of the Gorniy district, which has experienced some of Yakutia’s largest fires this season, the region receives only six rubles (8 US cents) per hectare from the federal budget, which is far insufficient.
That means there are dozens of fires. Brief News from Washington Newsday.