Russia, Scorched by Global Warming, Ravaged by AIDS
Some Russophiles might be inclined to imagine that the phenomenon of “global warming” might be good for frigid, frozen Russia because it might thaw out vast swaths of unproductive territory and make them more fertile and habitable.
One problem with such a theory, of course, is that Russia’s population is dwindling by the day, expected to fall by one-third in the next half-century or so. Which means that Russia can hardly manage to populate the territory it has now, much less new territory uncovered by global warming.
And now, scholar Paul Goble is reporting that in fact the whole notion is bogus. He states: “the Russian Federation will be more profoundly and negatively affected by global warming over the next 40 years than will any other country, a projection that Russian experts and officials say make it critical that Moscow take the lead both domestically and internationally to combat this trend.”
The melting of the permafrost below much of the surface will turn that region into an enormous bog and make difficult or extremely expensive for Moscow to exploit the oil and gas reserves there. In some parts of this enormous region, that is already happening, with some roads there now completely impassable, pipelines and power lines regularly disrupted, and ability of companies to work there seriously compromised and of the government to control the area undercut, even as Moscow is talking about projecting power further into the Arctic. Officials from the emergency situations ministry issued even more dire warnings in part because they even now have to cope with some of the problems global warming is causing. Over the next 25 to 30 years, they said, Russia’s permafrost zone will shrink “by more than ten percent,” increasing accidents and making it more difficult and expensive to work there.
Moreover, southern regions of Russia will be stricken by drought and other classic consequences of global warming in the same way as other parts of the world. Hobbled by its breathtaking economic collapse, Russia is ill-equipped to make significant adjustments to these news demands either in terms of infrastructure or efforts to curb carbon emissions.
And that’s not the end of Russia’s dire troubles.
Goble also reports that “the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia has entered a new and more dangerous phase not only because the infections are spreading not just among intravenous drug users but throughout the entire population and because the government has not adopted some of the more aggressive treatment strategies now being used in many Western countries.”
He points to a report by Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s chief public health official, that the total number of HIV-infected people in his country since the first infection in 1987 amounts to 467,016, a figure that most other Russian experts and the World Health Organization say is far too low.
In the last year alone the number of new infections, identified in the course of some 24 million HIV tests, rose by 50,670. And he said that of those whose infections had developed into full-blown AIDS since 1987, 31,636 had died prematurely, again a number many experts say is too low given the propensity of doctors to underreport such deaths. In an interview with “Nauka i zhizn’,” Boris Denisov, a demographer at Moscow State University, suggested that figures like those Onishchenko provides are more disturbing than the public health chief implied. Russia is only just now entering what he called “the mature phase” of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” Denisov said. Compared to Western countries, the first infections occurred in Russia later and after an initial upsurge increased relatively slowly from the mid-1990s until 2002, when things stabilized. But since 2006, he noted, the epidemic in Russia has “again accelerated.”
AIDS infection is increasing caused by sexual contact in Russia rather than IV drug use, meaning it is spreading into the general population at a much more rapid rate. Simultaneously, the Kremlin is refusing to utilize the most advanced treatment methods in an apparent attempt to save money. This creates a vortex of spiraling infection and mortality that will make Russia’s already egregious problem spin out of control.