Warmer soil in Siberia - «The thawing of permafrost causes holes in the streets» - News - SRF

Warmer soil in Siberia - «The thawing of permafrost causes holes in the streets» - News - SRF

The soil in Siberia, which was previously permanently frozen, is thawing. This leads to great instability. Formerly frozen methane gas is also escaping. Foreign editor Brigitte Zingg has observed the effects on site.

Brigitte Zingg: Many houses have cracks. Smaller and older houses are skewed. This has to do with the fact that the houses in the permafrost areas are built on steel or concrete pillars. The pillars start to shake and move.

The same applies to the roads and bridges. If the permafrost thaws in summer, the tar topping will drop a little. It almost looks like corrugated iron. This creates big holes in the streets. The higher the floor temperature, the more unstable the foundation for the entire infrastructure.

Many people are considering moving to the south. The government, however, is trying above all to keep the workforce in the area. It pays them higher wages than in the rest of Russia.

Anyone who lives in a permafrost area is one thing above all: unsettled. Building new buildings is difficult. Many people are considering moving to the south. The government, however, is trying above all to keep the workforce in the area. It pays them higher wages than in the rest of Russia.

For the cities, the raw materials bring jobs, taxes and levies. But the fact is that the gas and oil pipelines run through the tundra for hundreds of kilometers. If the ground thaws, the pipelines break and oil flows out, which leads to huge environmental damage. About ten years ago, Greenpeace calculated that oil producers had to spend over a billion euros just for the damage caused by climate change, and that will surely increase.

The methane can create an overpressure, a kind of bubble, under the floor. If the pressure gets high enough, there will be a huge explosion. There are craters in the tundra that are up to 80 or 90 meters deep. Everyone agrees that this is related to the thawing of permafrost. But Russian scientists are still arguing about how much thawing is caused by climate change, or whether it's more of a weather phenomenon over a hundred years.

Bacteria and viruses also thaw with the soil. This was demonstrated three years ago when an anthrax epidemic broke out. The disease was thought to be eradicated. It destroyed entire herds of reindeer. The animals are the basis of existence for the Siberian inhabitants.

The problem has been denied for a long time. But now there is no denying it. I spoke to researchers, including one from the WWF. He says that climate change and alternative energies are now an issue in the Kremlin. Some researchers at state universities are much more skeptical. They believe that everything is late. Russia will continue to produce oil in large quantities. There are projects for wind and solar energy. But their share in energy production is in the alcohol range. The pace of alternative energy development will only change when oil production becomes unprofitable, when the damage from climate change becomes more expensive than what comes in.

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