Ukraine Climate Scientist Fears for Russian Peer Who Apologized for War

Ukraine Climate Scientist Fears for Russian Peer Who Apologized for War

Ukrainian scientist Svitlana Krakovska had never met Russian researcher Oleg Anisimov before the virtual meeting organized by the United Nations last weekend. He was just another government representative there to approve the summary of a dire new 3,500-word report that lays out how unprepared the world is to cope with climate change. Now Krakovska worries for the safety of her Russian counterpart.

As the closed-door meeting was ending, Anisimov took the unexpected step of addressing the Ukraine delegation to apologize for the Russian military invasion. “All of those who know what is happening fail to find any justification for this attack against Ukraine,” he said, according to a person familiar with the discussions and published accounts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting.

Ukraine Climate Scientist Fears for Russian Peer Who Apologized for War

The comments leaked to the press on Sunday. Though there has been some opposition to the war inside Russia, it stood out that the head of climate change research at Russia’s State Hydrological Institute and someone representing the country in an official capacity had expressed discomfort with the invasion. Anisimov didn’t respond to questions.

“I just worry about my Russian colleague,” said Krakovska, 53, a senior scientist at the Ukrainian Hydrometerological Institute. She spoke to Bloomberg Green from her home in Kyiv, where she was sheltering from attacks by the Russian military.

When the war broke out, she wrote to the IPCC chief that her delegation would “continue to work if we have an internet connection and no missiles over our heads.” But her group had to give up, she said, after some colleagues were forced to seek safety from Russian bombs. Her current situation is exasperating: Krakovska’s building doesn’t have a basement, she said, so she’s keeping safe by going to the bathroom in the middle of the apartment whenever she hears explosions. When the air-raid sirens sound, she covers her windows with clothes.

As someone who studied in Russia and has relatives there, the war has made her angry in part because she feels Russia is choosing to use its oil and gas money on missiles rather than helping its own people. “I have travelled across Russia, and many people there live in poverty,” she said.

Anisimov’s apology for the Russian invasion came after Krakovska delivered her own remarks to the IPCC meeting, watched by delegates from 195 nations, that made a direct connection between the war in her country and climate change. “Someone could question us that IPCC is not a political body, and should only assess science related to climate change. Let me assure you that this human-induced climate change and war against Ukraine have direct connections and the same roots. They are fossil fuels and humanity’s dependence on them,” Krakovska told her colleagues, speaking in English. “While emissions of greenhouse gas have changed the energy balance of the planet, the ease of receiving energy from burning coal, oil and gas has changed the balance of power in the human world. We cannot change laws of the physical world but it is our responsibility to change laws of human civilization towards a climate resilient future.”

In part of her remarks, Krakovska expressed regret that the war ravaging her home would overshadow the years of scientific work by hundreds of researchers that went into the IPCC report released on Monday. She also suggested that “Ukraine can become the subject of study of vulnerable to climate change groups” based on its present experience of “war and increasing number of refugees.”

Krakovska got her PhD in 1998 from the same institute where she now works as a senior scientist. Last year, she received an award from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for leading expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. “I’ve traveled the world and I’ve seen this beautiful planet,” she said in the interview. “And I want to preserve it for my children.”

That’s what has motivated her to speak out about the climate emergency. Krakovska was an author of the IPCC’s previous report on climate science published in August. She attended last week’s meeting as part of the government delegation, not an author. At an earlier IPCC meeting, after hearing words of solidarity from the delegations of Canada, U.S. and many European countries, she realized she had to say something herself.

IPCC meetings under the aegis of the UN are somber affairs where scientists are careful to avoid political discussions. “I didn’t want to undermine IPCC’s credibility,” Krakovska said. “But then I realized that this war was not just a war against Ukraine. It’s a war against against humanity.”

That’s why she gave a prepared speech at the close of the IPCC meeting about the impact of Russia’s invasion. “I just want to emphasize that this war is not only against Ukraine but against global safety and fundamental human rights on freedom,” she told the conference.

Krakovska has received many messages from people offering her a place to stay outside Ukraine. She appreciates them, but she isn’t going anywhere. “Why should I go? This is my home,” she said. “I don’t want to be a refugee.”

Akshat Rathi writes the Net Zero newsletter, which examines the world’s race to cut emissions through the lens of business, science, and technology. You can email him with feedback.

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