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Mixed responses to Arctic warming -

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Mixed responses to Arctic warming

Broadcast: 09/12/2009

Reporter: Moscow correspondent Scott Bevan

One of the regions showing the greatest effects of climate change is the arctic. Temperatures in
eastern Russia have reportedly risen by twice the global average and Arctic ice is rapidly
disappearing. But not all locals are convinced that is a bad thing.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: One of the regions showing the greatest effects of climate change is the
Arctic. Temperatures in eastern Russia have reportedly risen by twice the global average and Arctic
ice is rapidly disappearing. Indeed, some scientists are predicting an ice-free summer by 2040. But
not all locals are convinced that's a bad thing. Moscow correspondent Scott Bevan travelled to the
city referred to as the gateway to the Arctic, Arkhangelsk, to file this report.

SCOTT BEVAN, REPORTER: It's a solemn late autumn day in northern Russia and the White Sea isn't
living up to its name; it's more grey and brown.

Around this time of the year, locals say, the waterways here used to be turning white.

TATYANA SUKHANOVSKAYA, NORTHERN HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL DEPARTMENT: In November, many years ago, some
years ago, usually there was ice.

SCOTT BEVAN: We're onboard the local meteorological centre's boat, called the 'Iceberg II', bound
for a weather station perched on a small island in the White Sea.

Mudug Island is on the frontline for documenting how the climate is changing near the top of the
world. Using the station's old equipment and her experience of 38 years, meteorologist Svetlana
Tsyplakova is observing how change is literally washing up on her island's shores.

SVETLANA TSYPLAKOVA, METEROLOGIST: Usually in December there was firm ice and over the past two
years, really firm ice has only appeared in January or perhaps at the very end of December.

SCOTT BEVAN: Back on the mainland in the meteorological centre's head office in the city of
Arkhangelsk, rising temperatures in the region are chartered.

IRINA GRISCHENKO, NORTHERN HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL DEPARTMENT: This is the Arctic and here is the
region you are now in. Over the past two years here there's been a 3 degree temperature increase,
which is a very significant anomaly.

SCOTT BEVAN: The dramatic rise, researchers say, is changing the face of the Arctic, with ice cover
rapidly shrinking and thinning.

IRINA GRISCHENKO (voiceover translation): According to the latest research by the British scientist
from Cambridge, the ice thickness is not more than 1.8 metres, so it means it doesn't look like old
ice, which would be about three metres thick. And they've made a conclusion that by 2030 there will
be no ice in the Arctic in summer. That means icebreaker-free shipping.

SCOTT BEVAN: Yet the thinning ice is already allowing international shipping to find a way across
the Arctic. This summer, two German ships sailed from Asia to Europe via northern Siberia using the
famous North-east Passage. While Russian ships have long carried supplies along the country's
northern coastline, this voyage has been hailed by the German shipping company and others in the
industry as historic, saying it's the first time commercial vessels from Western countries have
travelled the entire passage. While no-one's expecting world trade routes to be redrawn any time
soon, experts say the North-east Passage offers a short cut that could mean big time and cost
savings.

EVGENY PENIEVSKOI, BELFREIGHT SHIPPING: For example, the distance from St. Petersburg to
Vladivostok is approximately 24,000 kilometres, if you go via the Suez Canal. If you go by the
Northern Sea route, it takes only 13,000 kilometres.

SCOTT BEVAN: Evgeny Penievskoi heads an Arkhangelsk shipping company called Belfreight. He's hoping
the North-east Passage will eventually bring more ships and jobs to the city's wharfs.

EVGENY PENIEVSKOI: I prefer all the ship to be occupied, of course.

SCOTT BEVAN: Evgeny Penievskoi says he's already seeing the window for shipping in the Arctic open
wider every year.

EVGENY PENIEVSKOI: Summer navigation has become longer because it begins nowadays approximately 10
days earlier and ends approximately 10 or 15 days later. So, (inaudible) have become less icy.

SCOTT BEVAN: That's good for business.

EVGENY PENIEVSKOI: It's actually good for business.

SCOTT BEVAN: If the ship's come, tour operators in Arkhangelsk hope more visitors will come as
well, boosting a flagging industry.

TATYANA BESTUZHEVA, ARKHANGELSK TOUR OPERATOR (voiceover translation): If global warming continues,
people will be able to come here for the sun, to bask here, because our White Sea is so nice.

SCOTT BEVAN: While some see the development of a trade route across the top of the world as a way
of securing greater opportunities for northern Russia, others read this as yet another sign of the
devastating effects of global warming on the environment.

VLADIMIR CHUPROV, GREENPEACE RUSSIA: This is a bad signal, bad signal for the whole climate system
of the planet.

SCOTT BEVAN: Vladimir Chuprov is from an environmental group Greenpeace Russia.

Greenpeace says rising temperatures are hurting Russia, not only environmentally, but also
economically. It's just released a report handed to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The
report warns that much of the country's vital infrastructure is at risk as the permafrost on which
it's built thaws.

VLADIMIR CHUPROV: From the first glance and first attempt we showed that the cost could be very
high, it could be a few per cent of GDP minimum. One per cent of Russian GDP about $10 billion.

SCOTT BEVAN: Some also say that climate change is leading to the devouring of Russia. Rising water
levels are causing erosion problems and increasing the threat of flooding, and coastlines are being
reshaped, including on Muju Island.

SVETLANA TSYPLAKOVA: Even over just the past three years the water has taken away three metres of
our land.

SCOTT BEVAN: Scientists say the habits of wildlife are also being affected. Workers at a number of
northern weather stations have had to deal with hungry and desperate polar bears. The habits of
humans are changing as well.

Alexander Romanovski is a fisherman who lives in the village of Kandar, about four hours drive from
Arkhangelsk. By this time of the year, his boats are out of the water and he'd expects to be out on
a frozen White Sea on snowmobiles to seek fish under the ice. But not lately, as the winter fishing
season is pushed back by the lack of ice.

Alexander Romanovski says that leaves him and many of his fellow villagers with few options and
less income.

ALEXANDER ROMANOVSKI, FISHERMAN (voiceover translation): Well this affects us directly. Before we
could be earning money December, January; now we can't. The fish are out there, but there's no
money for us.

SCOTT BEVAN: The people of northern Russia know that a change in climate means changes to their
lives. What so many are waiting to see is how those changes play out for the better and for the
worst and whether they will provide opportunities or more adversity in what is already a
challenging part of the world to live.

IRINA GRISCHENKO (voiceover translation): The warming goes on and apparently will continue and its
impact is absolutely multi-faceted.

EVGENY PENIEVSKOI: For us, it's a great advantage, in case of warming. Maybe for the world it's not
so good, for the climate it's not so good, but for the northern territory of Russia, it's OK.

SCOTT BEVAN: Scott Bevan, Lateline.