Climate Change Could Make Siberia Habitable

New research is revealing that climate change could make large parts of Siberia suitable for sustaining human populations.

When it comes to climate change there is little good news but a new study is revealing an unintended possible positive outcome of the environmental disaster. It turns out that climate change may make large parts of Siberia habitable.

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This could happen as early as the late 21st century. The study team from the Krasnoyarsk Federal Research Center, Russia, and the National Institute of Aerospace, USA, explored current and predicted climate scenarios to come up with their theory.

Becoming more habitable 

"Previous human migrations have been associated with climate change. As civilizations developed technology that enabled them to adapt, humans became less reliant on the environment, particularly in terms of climate," said the study's lead author Dr Elena Parfenova, from the Krasnoyarsk Federal Research Center.

"We wanted to learn if future changes in climate may lead to the less-hospitable parts of Asian Russia becoming more habitable for humans."

For their analysis, the team explored January and July temperatures and annual precipitation. The researchers were looking for their respective effects on three climate indices that are important for human livelihood: Ecological Landscape Potential (ELP), winter severity, and permafrost coverage.

The team further evaluated two CO2 Representative Concentration Pathway scenarios. The first, RCP 2.6, indicated mild climate change and the second, RCP 8.5, indicated more drastic changes.

"We found increases in temperature of 3.4°C (RCP 2.6) to 9.1°C (RCP 8.5) in mid-winter; increases of 1.9°C (RCP 2.6) to 5.7°C (RCP 8.5) in mid-summer; and increases in precipitation of 60 mm (RCP 2.6) to 140 mm (RCP 8.5)," said Parfenova.

"Our simulations showed that under RCP8.5, by the 2080s Asian Russia would have a milder climate, with less permafrost coverage, decreasing from the contemporary 65 per cent to 40 per cent of the area by the 2080s."

Even in the mild scenario

The study also revealed that even under the mild RCP 2.6 scenario, the ELP for human sustainability would improve in more than 15% of the area. This would translate into a five-fold increase in the capacity of the territory to sustain humans.

However, added the researcher, even in a warming scenario, the problem would still be the area's infrastructure. 

"Asian Russia is currently extremely cold. In a future warmer climate, food security in terms of crop distribution and production capability is likely to become more favorable for people to support settlements," added Parfenova.

"However, suitable land development depends on the authorities' social, political and economic policies. Lands with developed infrastructure and high agricultural potential would obviously be populated first.

"Vast tracts of Siberia and the Far East have poorly developed infrastructure. The speed these developments happen depends on investments in infrastructure and agriculture, which in turn depends on the decisions that should be made soon," concluded Parfenova.

The study is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

What do you think? Would you be moving to Siberia any time soon?

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