Human Capital Multidisciplinary Research Center

How Vulnerable is the Russian Population to the Country's Climate?

The Human Capital Multidisciplinary Research Center has published the 15th issue of theresearch digest. It presents the results of the vulnerability assessment of the Russian populationto climate change, carried out by employees and partners of the Faculty of Geography andGeoinformation Technology (HSE University).

How Vulnerable is the Russian Population to the Country's Climate?

The study revealed that the regions and municipalities of Russia vary dramatically in vulnerability to shocks and risks associated with climate change. Assessing vulnerability of the population to climate change should consider spatial unevenness – both global warming and its natural consequences, and the development and settlement of Russian territories.

Based on detailed spatial data on natural and climatic living conditions and population distribution (at the level of settlements), the digest authors (Nikolai Kurichev, Veronika Vinogradova, Alexander Sheludkov, Olga Glezer) calculated changes in the vulnerability of the Russian population to adverse natural and climatic conditions, highlighting two main factors - climate change and shifts in population distribution.

In the last 30 years, natural and climatic conditions in most of Russia have become more favorable for the population due to global warming. In the future, this trend will remain, but it primarily concerns the sparsely populated regions of the north and east of the country, where the population is small and continues to decline within the framework of the ‘western drift’ described in detail in scientific studies regarding internal Russian population migrations in the post-Soviet period. At the same time, in the last 30 years, the increasing extremity and aridity, especially manifested in the 2010s in the form of a series of droughts, led to a deterioration in the natural and climatic living conditions of the population in the south of European part of Russia and in the Volga region. By the 2010s, compared with 1961-1990, the share of the most favorable comfort zone in Russia decreased from 2% to 0.4% of the territory. In these regions with the most favorable natural conditions and a high concentration of population and economy (including agriculture), climatic conditions will continue to deteriorate in the future.

The scale of the impact of climate change on the estimated distribution of the population by zones of natural and climatic comfort is noticeably ahead of the shifts in settlement. Climate change over past 30 years has led to a change in the living conditions of more than 30 million people, and the impact of shifts in population distribution (primarily migration) is manifested primarily in an increase of population by 7.3 million people in the favorable zone, which includes the largest regions attracting migrants – metropolitan agglomerations (Moscow and the Moscow region, St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region) and the south-western regions of European part of Russia.

The authors conclude that adaptation to global climate change by key sectors of the economy, cities, infrastructure facilities is urgently needed. Existing plans at the federal and regional levels are often formal and insufficiently developed, and the methods used are not without drawbacks. It is important to ensure real integration of geographically differentiated vulnerability assessments for climate change into federal, regional and city strategic planning systems.

Human Capital Multidisciplinary Research Center Digest Project is managed by Olga Voron.

Digest No. 15 is available via the link (RU).