This is the opinion of Sergei Zimov (Head of the North-Eastern Scientific Station in the village of Chersky (Yakutia), author of the Pleistocene Park project).
Many people dream of changing the climate: to save money and move to the south or go south for at least a week or two. And also grow apricots near Tula, and potatoes in Lower Kolyma. Warming for the Russians is the growth of crops, savings on construction, heating, snow clearing ... If the climate in Moscow becomes like in Paris, Muscovites will somehow adapt.
The world is concerned about a one and a half degree warming. We have many places where it will still be cold even with warming of 20 degrees. As today in Moscow.
Russians do not want to spend money on warming and spend big money on it. Moreover, everyone knows that everyone owes us this, because we have 20 percent of the world's forests, and forests are the "lungs" of the planet. We supply the whole world with oxygen, but ... Grass and cereals in the fields emit oxygen no less than forests, and phytoplankton in the oceans even more.
But, forests burn regularly. Most of our forests are young, today they are recovering and accumulating wood, but there are more and more dry thunderstorms every year, and who will give a guarantee and who will believe that these forests will not burn down in a year, ten or fifty years?
In overcrowded forests, the probability and, most importantly, the power of fires increase. Instead of ground fires, riding fires will come. In a fiery flurry, everything accumulated will again turn into CO2. A convincing way to increase carbon stocks in wood is by creating new forests. CO2 prices in Europe today are comparable to wheat prices. We have a lot of free land, and many believe that by increasing the area of forests, we will not only close our carbon footprint, but also make big money. But, firstly, looking at what is happening in the world, it is hard to believe that we will be paid for the climate. Secondly, our ancestors conquered the fields from the forest with hard labor, fire and axes, and then for generations turned poor forest podzols into rich soils of arable land and hayfields. The fact that today these fields are overgrown with forest does not please the Russians. And thirdly, the expansion of our forests, on the contrary, will lead to climate warming. A warming climate - to the melting of permafrost. And then: the priest had a dog ...
According to the calculations of our Ministry of Natural Resources, there are only 25 gigatons of carbon in the wood of Russian forests. If we add branches, roots, undergrowth here... we will get another 38.6 gigatons, and another 6.2 Gt of dead organic matter, dead wood, stumps, and dead wood. Many forests are unkempt and littered. Half of them are stunted light forests, in which there is more moss than wood. Therefore, our forests are 20 percent (by area) of the world's forests, but only 5 percent by volume of timber.
Two-thirds of our country is the lands of the forest fund. Agricultural land (22.2 percent) and reserve land (5.2), in total it is 27.4 percent of our territory, that is, 460 million hectares.
Statistics: in our country, young aspen forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere the most - up to a ton per hectare per year. Let's assume that we planted all these 460 million hectares with aspen (10 hectares for each of the men), then, having matured, these forests will absorb up to 0.46 Gt of carbon. That is, by destroying all agriculture, all cows, we can only close our carbon footprint for a while. You can plant cedar. But it absorbs carbon twice as slowly. Land will need twice as much.
If over the past 45 years the average summer temperature in Russia, according to Roshydromet, has risen by 1.8 degrees C, then the spring temperature has risen by 3.0 degrees C
In order to "cool the climate", we are offered to expand forests and exterminate cows. What does nature tell us? Approximately 12 thousand years ago, the era of man - the Holocene - began. We are currently living in a warm interglacial period. And before that there was the Pleistocene period - the era of glaciation and mammoths. There have been 4 major glacial cycles in the last half million years. At all times of cold glaciations, the atmosphere had low concentrations of CO2 and methane. With warming, their concentration increased. This fact, in addition to mathematical modeling, is the main proof of the influence of CO2 and methane on the climate at the global level. 18 thousand years ago, at the maximum of the last glacial period, there was less than 400 Kt of carbon in the atmosphere, but there were 10 times less forests than today. Even in the Amazon, there were only a few islands of forest. The planet was dominated by pasture ecosystems.
Nature lives in accordance with the laws of V.I. Vernadsky. Evolution is the acceleration of the biocirculation. The Pleistocene period was the heyday of the evolutionarily youngest ecosystems - pasture, ecosystems with the highest rate of biocirculation. Almost all plants in these ecosystems were edible. Grains and grasses, yielding several harvests a year, fed billions of large herbivores. These ecosystems did not depend on climate and captured most of the land. There were fewer forests, and these were park forests. Mammoth steppes and savannahs were the largest pasture ecosystem at that time. All of Russia was drowning in them. In addition to numerous bison, horses, mammoths and deer, rhinoceroses, lions, cheetahs, hyenas lived here ... With warming, there were more park forests. And with a cold snap, the steppes expanded, and there were fewer trees in the savannah.
With the last warming, already well-armed people began to spread around the planet. Animals became less, many disappeared. In North America, 33 species of megafauna have disappeared, and in South America, almost all large animals have disappeared - 50 species. As a result, trees, shrubs, mosses have captured most of the pastures. There were more forests, fewer cows, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere only increased, and it became not colder, but warmer. In the Holocene, 500 gigatonnes of carbon appeared in new forests, 200 Gt added to the atmosphere.
Where did these 700 Gt come from? At first, the scientific community thought it was from the ocean, and searched long and unsuccessfully for what caused the oceans to exhale CO2? Only later did Russian scientists tell them about the soils of the north. Trees are in plain sight, but wood is a small carbon sink. But in the soils of the world there is three times more organic carbon than in wood. Soil carbon content is a balance between the input of organic matter into the soil (mainly with plant roots) and the rate of its decomposition. And it is very dependent on soil temperature.
Therefore, in the tropics, on every square meter of soil, even under cereals, at best, there are kilograms of carbon, and in the north - tens of kilograms. All our [Russian] wood is 25 Gt of carbon, and in the soils of Russia it is 320 Gt., 13 times more (in Canada this ratio is even higher).
By adding only a fraction of a percent of carbon to our soils every year, we will close our carbon footprint. But it is difficult to do this against the backdrop of warming. In 2020, revised calculations were published that showed that if the climate warms by 2 degrees C, the soils of the world will lose 230 Gt of carbon by the end of the century. Russia's soils have already warmed by more than 2 C, and if warming continues at the same pace, they will lose up to 100 gigatons of carbon - 4 times more than in all of our wood.
The climate today in big politics is not a goal, but a tool and a pretext. Following the climate agenda imposed on us, we will ruin both our economy and our nature. And the global climate.
But there is an even larger reservoir of organic carbon. This is permafrost. It has 1670 gigatons of it. In Siberia, in Alaska, in the Yukon, under modern soils that thaw in summer, lie the ancient frozen soils of the mammoth steppe. Somewhere the thickness of these soils is 2-3 meters, and somewhere tens of meters. They contain a lot of fresh organics, grass roots, animal bones and dormant ancient microbes. When the permafrost thaws, microbes wake up and eat up what they did not have time to eat in the distant past. For a year, up to 3 percent of this ancient organic matter is oxidized and turns into CO2. At the same time, microbes, oxidizing organic matter, generate heat and heat the soil, accelerating the thawing of permafrost.
Melting permafrost is the main threat to the climate. If permafrost melts everywhere by 2-3 meters, then microbes will have about 1000 gigatons of organic carbon "on the table" (2/3 - in Siberia). If microbes eat 1 percent of this in a year, then CO2 emissions from these soils will be ~10 Gt of carbon per year - the same as all global industrial emissions. But the permafrost (its warming) is unlikely to stop there either: oxygen, swamp gas and others who are waiting in the wings will be drawn into the process. In 2014, calculations were published that due to the thawing of permafrost, the global economy would lose $43 trillion. Western journalists have called the permafrost a "climatic time bomb."
Experts in the West, and ours too, assumed and hoped that the permafrost would not begin to thaw soon, and that this process would drag on for centuries. However, nature did not agree with them. The average temperature in Russia has already risen by almost 3 degrees. Accordingly, the average annual temperature of the soils, and then the permafrost, also increased. In Siberia, the height of the snow has also increased. Snow is a good thermal insulator and prevents winter soil cooling. An additional 10 cm of snow usually increases the temperature of soils and permafrost by 1-1.2 C. Therefore, in Siberia, wherever the temperature of the permafrost was above -4 degrees C, it began to melt. In 2018, after two snowy winters, the permafrost began to melt even on the Arctic coast of Yakutia. The soils here have warmed up by 8 C. Since 2020, in the lower reaches of the Kolyma, the “permafrost roof” has already dropped by 4.5 meters in some places.
The fact that our permafrost began to melt and "breathed" is also evidenced by monitoring data on greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. In 2020, due to COVID, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have decreased dramatically. But the growth of atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and methane on the planet not only did not slow down, but even accelerated. Especially methane. It is now experiencing the fastest increase in its concentration in history, and this is just the beginning. If the permafrost "turns on to the full", then all the measures provided for by the Paris Agreement will only slightly slow down warming. Permafrost destroys today's climate strategy. Therefore, many try not to remember or talk about it. But if the growth of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continues at the same pace, then next year it will not be possible to "hush up" the permafrost. Atmospheric monitoring will show everything.
There is another big problem with Russia's forests. CO2 and methane are not the main greenhouse effect. The main gas is water vapor, and its content in the air depends on temperature. At minus twenty degrees, only 1 gram of water dissolves in a cubic meter of air. And at +20 C, you can already dissolve 17 grams. Then the following factor comes into play: how much of the sun's energy the earth absorbs, and how much it reflects into space. Water, forests absorb 90 percent, and fresh snow only ten. Today, the earth reflects 35 percent of the sun's energy. And if you change it by just 1 percent, then this is equivalent to doubling the CO2 content in the atmosphere.
Forests play an important role in this process. Back in 1992, simulations were carried out to find out what would happen if the tundra, which is covered with snow for 8 months of the year, is overgrown with forest, which remains dark all year round. The tundra is a relatively narrow strip in the north of America and Eurasia, but its forestation increased the average annual temperatures in the vast region north of 60 degrees (north of St. Petersburg) by an average of two degrees. At the same time, the main increase in temperatures occurred in the spring, when the sun is strong in the north and there are many clear days.
In 2007, the results of another interesting experiment were published. The authors calculated the scenario of global deforestation: they cut down and turned into CO2 all the trees on the planet, i.e. emitted 500 Gt of carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO2, and as a result, the planet's climate has cooled! At the same time, in the scenario in which only tropical forests were cut down (they have the largest timber reserves, and there is no snow), the climate warmed up. When only the forests of the temperate zone were destroyed, the average temperatures on the planet dropped slightly. But the deforestation of the boreal forests (taiga) has cooled the global climate very much to such an extent that it blocked the contribution from the deforestation of the tropical forests. In the boreal zone, after clear-cutting, the average annual temperature decreased by 3-6 C.
What is happening in Russia today? Abandoned agricultural fields are overgrown with shrubs and forests. On hayfields - weeds that stick out above the snow. In the tundra, due to warming, shrubs also rose above the snow. The snow melts earlier - we are waiting for abnormal climate warming. Moreover, as follows from the theory, the maximum warming occurred in the spring. If over the past 45 years the average summer temperature in Russia, according to Roshydromet, has risen by 1.8 C, then the spring temperature has risen by 3.0 C.
The entire Pleistocene on our planet was replaced by interglacial periods. These transitions are associated with a change in ocean circulation and changes in the orbit of our planet.
In theory, a new ice age should begin now. The currents in the oceans are already changing. But we, by burning fossil fuels, provoked "freelance" warming. Because of it, soils, permafrost began to lose their carbon. Even if we stop burning fossil fuels, this process cannot be stopped. Maybe the currents in the ocean will somehow change, or a lot of clouds will appear that will protect the earth from overheating, or all volcanoes will wake up and cover the sun tightly with their dust ... For now, everything says that warming will continue.
Today's ecosystems cannot be saved. They will hold out to the last, but bark beetles, silkworms, fires will destroy them. If the climate in the protected spruce forest becomes like in Voronezh, it is doomed. A new forest will not appear soon, acorns do not fly for a long distance. Especially dramatic changes will be in Eastern Siberia. Here everywhere moss forests grow in a very dry steppe climate. Here the earth receives 2-3 times more heat than is required to evaporate all the precipitation.
The time has come to turn the spaces occupied by dying forests and light forests into the pastoral landscape familiar to our ancestors. In order to effectively resist warming, we are offered to expand forests and reduce the number of animals. But nature, by its example, shows that it is necessary to do the opposite: to return pasture ecosystems, to return many millions of horses, bison, deer, bulls, musk oxen, bighorn sheep ... and all predators. All those who in the past supported the pastures of the mammoth steppes.
In winter, you can eat grass only by digging up the snow. Animals for the winter, in accordance with the law of life pressure V.I. Vernadsky, you need to eat everything that has grown over the summer. And for this, there should be many of them on every square kilometer of grass pastures - dozens. Then the snow on such fields will be dug up several times and will be full of holes and dense. Because of this, soils and permafrost cool by 3-4 C. Successful experiments on the revival of such ecosystems have been conducted for many years in the Pleistocene Park in Yakutia in the lower reaches of the Kolyma and in the Wild Field park in the south of the Tula region.
We are not alone in our aspirations
Harvard scientists plan to soon create genetically modified mammoth elephants for the Pleistocene Park. Mammoths are important components of the ecosystem and, like horses, unlike ruminants, emit little methane. Mathematical modeling has shown that animals are able to stop the melting of permafrost throughout Siberia only due to the destruction of the snow cover.
The reverse-return process can be seen today in the Pleistocene Park, about which Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote in detail. The climate here, as in all of Eastern Siberia, is dry, but the vegetation is low productive. It evaporates little water, so the territory was swampy, and waterlogged horizons were common in soils.
But animals appeared, manure appeared, productivity and evaporation increased, and the roots of grasses, storing carbon, began to penetrate to the entire depth, to the roof of the permafrost, the soil dried up ...
During the Holocene period in Eurasia, most pastures were overgrown with forest and moss, and the rest turned into domestic pastures, in which people and dogs replaced lions and wolves, but winter grazing continued, cattle breeders did not store hay. Their semi-wild cattle, in order to feed themselves, tore through the snow all winter, so the richness of the black soil was maintained. As soon as the cattle disappeared from the fields in winter, the soils warmed up and began to lose their humus. We can return winter grazing to our agricultural lands and revive black soil. On most of our arable lands, if we do not do autumn plowing, in winter there is enough food for semi-wild Bashkir horses and bison (tens of thousands of them are sold annually on the North American agricultural market). Large arable fields should be fenced, today it is inexpensive. In winter, these will be pastures, and in the summer it is not difficult to overtake cattle to fallow and into inconvenience. Winter grazing will benefit fields, farmers, and the global climate. These will be the most efficient carbon farms.
Russia has rich experience in the transformation of nature. The post-war most hungry time. The country makes the bomb. And the country cares about the climate. From Tula to the Caucasus and from the Dniester to Altai - all this space was dry windy steppes, from which winds blew snow into ravines ...
In just a few years, a dense network of windbreak forest belts appeared in this area. Our ingenious science has calculated for each region, for each type of soil, where and which trees should stand in the way of a dry wind. For 70 years now, the vast territory has been turned into a fertile savannah. Now is the time to turn the vast expanses occupied by dying cluttered forests and mossy mosquito woodlands into the pastoral landscape familiar and native to our ancestors - into savannahs and park forests. Man, as a biological species, appeared precisely in these richest ecosystems. We, in Yakutia and Tula, are doing just that today.
All that is needed for this is to create a network of parks as soon as possible. They will become nurseries for the resettlement of already adapted animal communities throughout the country. And then give land and freedom to horses, bison, deer, bulls, rams... They will find territories where forests have died and many grasses have appeared, and they themselves will create rich savannahs on rich black earth and park forests with large sprawling trees. In this pastoral landscape without mosquitoes and ticks, everything will be trimmed, there will be nothing to burn. Russia is big, there are few people, there is no one to take care of the fields and forests. It is necessary to give "citizenship" to animals, the indigenous inhabitants of Russia. And all year round, as in the past, they will take care of their native nature. The future, according to Vernadsky, belongs to such ecosystems.
By reviving pasture ecosystems, Russia can create a food reserve of global importance - hundreds of millions of livestock and hundreds of millions of hectares of fertile soil. Pasture ecosystems are the greenest, easiest and most reliable way to turn solar energy into social energy.
Everything we have said about climate and science is well known. All of this has been published in major scientific journals. The Pleistocene Park project is being talked about and written about by all the world's media. But Western politicians and climate activists do not properly perceive either soil carbon or permafrost. The climate today in big politics is not a goal, but a tool and a pretext. Following the climate agenda imposed on us, we will ruin both our economy and our nature. And the global climate. It is necessary to develop new technologies, it is necessary to spend irreplaceable resources more efficiently. But only this is not enough.
Russia is the largest energy exporter. It can regulate world prices for fossil fuels, industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. It is a leader in nuclear power technology. Russia controls the largest reservoirs of organic carbon and can control the natural emissions of CO2 and methane.
Only Russia can really control the planet's climate. Russia's climate policy should be sovereign. By reviving pasture ecosystems, we will make Russia richer. It will be useful for our entire civilization. This will be the best thing that can be done to stabilize the climate. On the climate agenda, if the West really cares, it should follow Russia. Namely, it is necessary to stop the thawing of permafrost in Alaska and Yukon, to turn miserable forests into savannahs. This noticeably cools the regional climate. And wherever there is still snow, accumulate carbon in the soil. The peoples of the West need this more than we do. Russians are not afraid of warming.