It's bad enough that the Kremlin is failing to tap the Stabilization Fund for efficiency upgrades. But it's also dragging feet on Kyoto-related projects, which amount to free or heavily financed upgrades. Even though European countries and firms are lining up to invest in Russia's leaking energy infrastructure (and thus earn Kyoto carbon credits) the Kremlin has yet to issue official guidelines for dozens of proposals. Some of those waiting for the legislation suspect that excessive transparency may be a reason for the lack of official interest. Bilateral deals with well-monitored EU partners just don't offer much scope for corruption. Others point to traditional paranoia that the west must have something up its sleeve in toying with Russian industry.
Meanwhile, on Russia's renewable energy front... well, Russia doesn't have a renewable energy front. As countries around the world increase their investments in alts and renewables - including its fellow petro states in the Persian Gulf - Russia has no program to speak of. According to Greenpeace's Chuprov, the Kremlin has shown no interest in Russia's enormous renewable energy potential, even though biomass, small-scale hydro and wind could one day contribute as much as a third to Russia's energy mix.
Instead, Putin has announced a $25 billion investment in Russia's nuclear industry. It's the same approach preferred by Putin's peers in the climate clown club, John Howard and George Bush. As those two lame ducks wind down their time in office, to be followed by less benighted politicians, Putin's successor looks set to become the world's last remaining climate clown in charge of a major industrialized country.
But what if Russia has no reason to fear climate change or the dwindling of its energy reserves? What if Russia's brightest days lie ahead, with or without European help in cleaning up its act? This is a serious and happy prospect, according to Gregg Easterbrook in an April cover story for The Atlantic, in which he pronounces Russia the likely winner of the climate change sweepstakes.
Anyone who has followed the climate change debate over the last couple of decades has learned to be wary of Easterbrook. As an editor at the New Republic, Easterbrook played the role of liberal climate skeptic for much of the 1990s - a moderate voice untainted by oil connections urging caution, not action. In article after article, he tried to prick holes in the hardening scientific consensus that we were heating the earth. When the debate shifted in the late 90s, this tack became professionally embarrassing, and Easterbook morphed into a planetary Pollyanna, admitting that while warming was in fact real, carbon sequestration and assorted technological fixes would take care of everything, again making drastic social change unnecessary. The problem with Easterbook's opinions was that he didn't know what he was talking about. Developments have so far proved him wrong at every turn, and a reviewer in Natural History wrote that Easterbook's 1995 book Moment of Earth "contains some of the most egregious cases of misunderstood, misstated, misinterpreted, and plainly incorrect 'science' writing I've ever encountered."
Easterbrook is as brazen and nuts as ever in his ongoing hunt for the lighter side of global frying. In his Atlantic cover story, one of the most despicable pieces of climate journalism ever published, Easterbrook casts climate change as a zero-sum game with "winners and losers." Along with asking how climate change will impact geopolitics and agriculture, Easterbrook muses how possible climate catastrophe might influence stock portfolios and the values of Atlantic subscribers' second homes. In a typical passage, the author says that among the losers will be refugees fleeing newly uninhabitable parts of the third world. And the winners? Why, smart investors who snap up this evacuated land "at Filene's Basement prices" and plant leucaena trees. Why leucaena trees? Because the rights to the carbon they absorb can be sold to guilt-ridden Americans seeking "carbon neutrality". It's practically win-win. Except for all those refugees.