Three degrees!

On the day before daylight savings commenced in Melbourne, the beginning of spring and a summer we can no longer predict, I read an article that shook me. Former Moscow bureau chief of The Washington Post, Anton Troianovski has teamed with one of my heroes, Chris Mooney, also of the Post, on a tour de force investigative report, “Radical warming in Siberia leaves millions on unstable ground.” In the furthest east slab of Russia, no one questions the science. “Scientists say the planet’s warming must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius,” write our reporters, “but Siberia’s temperatures have already spiked far beyond that.”

My cousin lives in Krasnoyarsk, a huge, bustling Siberian frontier city in the middle of nowhere but much more somewhere, three thousand kilometres southwest of Yakutsk, the city on the Lena River explored by Troianovski.

The region of Yakutia is called home by five million people and climate change is ravaging their lives. My part of the world has warmed about a degree Celsius but there, they’re already seeing three degrees. Three degrees! The permanent permafrost is thawing, rivers rise,  arable land has fallen fifty percent, herds of cattle and reindeer are down twenty percent, and country folk flee to the cities. Fires rage. Mud slides wash away houses. Pasture turns to swamp. One plus: a booming trade in mammoth tusks emerging after 10,000 years underground.

Of course I knew the far north was warming faster than my home but the extent staggers me. I closed my eyes and picture Krasnoyarsk, its mix of glitz and squalor, its lazy massive river. What is happening there? I emailed my cousin, heart in mouth.

(Image from article, original source Berkeley Earth)