19 April 2007

More on the Runnel

There's some interesting articles out there about the proposed tunnel under the Bering Strait today (none, naturally, from Alaska media).

Here's a bit that grabbed my attention:

This time, it is being promoted as an economic, not a political, project, said Viktor Razbegin, a deputy head of industrial research at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and longtime proponent of a bridge or tunnel for the roiling strait.

"It is a strategic for us to develop this land," he said of Russia's poor northeastern district, Chukotka, and neighboring areas in Siberia. "We cannot do it without a railroad."

Part of me wonders to what extent the economic viability of this project is linked to the widespread warming temperatures in the Arctic.

Gregg Easterbrook in last month's Atlantic mentioned Siberia in his article on winners and losers of global warming:
For generations poets have bemoaned this realm as cursed by enormous, foreboding, harsh Siberia. What if the region in question were instead enormous, temperate, inviting Siberia? Climate change could place Russia in possession of the largest new region of pristine, exploitable land since the sailing ships of Europe first spied the shores of what would be called North America. The snows of Siberia cover soils that have never been depleted by controlled agriculture. What’s more, beneath Siberia’s snow may lie geologic formations that hold vast deposits of fossil fuels, as well as mineral resources. When considering ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to regulate greenhouse gases, the Moscow government dragged its feet, though the treaty was worded to offer the Russians extensive favors. Why might this have happened? Perhaps because Russia might be much better off in a warming world: Warming’s benefits to Russia could exceed those to all other nations combined.
I wonder if there's be any implicit or explicit discussion in the halls of Russian government about future warming trends and the viability of this particular project. The "Runnel" has been widely scorned in many media accounts because of what previous ideas have produced. But I haven't seen anything that takes into account what future warming trends might mean.

The times they are a-changin'. Perhaps the project is more viable now.

1 comment:

james said...

One fact that cannot be ignored: the northwest passage will soon be navigable by large cargo ships. Already small boats are able to travel through the previously ice-bound northern route. Predictions are that big ships will be using the passage in ten years.