MAGARAS: For the third year in a row, residents of northeastern Siberia are reeling from the worst wildfires they can remember, and many are left feeling helpless, angry and alone. In recent years, summer temperatures in the Russian Arctic have gone as high as 100 degrees, feeding enormous blazes that thaw what was once permanently frozen ground.
Last year, wildfires scorched more than 1,55,399 square kilometres of forest and tundra.
Scientists say the fires have been made possible by the extraordinary summer heat in recent years in Siberia. Last year, the fires in the Siberian region of Yakutia released roughly as much CO2 as did all the fuel consumption in Mexico in 2018, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service in Reading, England.
Life in northeastern Siberia revolves around the northern forest, known as the taiga. It is the source of berries, mushrooms, meat, timber and firewood. When it burns, the permafrost below it thaws faster, turning woods into swamps. Scientists say the fires have accelerated in the past three years, threatening the sustainability of the taiga ecosystem. “If we don’t have the forest, we don’t have life,” said Magaras resident Maria Nogovitsina.
Four days of travels in Yakutia this month revealed the sentiment that the government did not grasp the people’s plight. Rather than accept that climate change is to blame, many repeat conspiracy theories, among them that the fires were set by crooked officials.