Helping local communities to understand what the future might look like: "Information Services" in Russia


By Vilena Valeeva, IASS Potsdam


One of the Blue-Action case studies is focusing in the Yamal region of Russia, characterized by fragile ecosystems, a harsh climate, and extreme weather.  Large-scale economic projects must be assessed for their capability to provide local economic benefit without causing harm to local ecosystems, social and cultural livelihoods, and the global climate. Together with stakeholder groups, the team has co-developed a suite of scenarios to describe possible futures for this region in 2040 by incorporating cutting edge climate predictions with environmental, social and cultural concerns, economic opportunities, and political and legal developments.


Yamal is a region with substantial ongoing and planned petroleum and shipping activities. However, its future is highly uncertain due to a number of factors; the impacts of climate change are among the most important of them. The main goal of the project was to help stakeholders, i.e. those whose life and work is dependent on Yamal, to deal these uncertainties and to adapt to possible developments in the future. The scenarios “Yamal 2040” were developed together with stakeholders at a series of workshops and incorporated cutting edge climate predictions with environmental, social and cultural concerns, economic opportunities, and political and legal developments. Representatives of different stakeholder groups were involved in the Yamal scenario project from the very beginning and acted as co-authors of the developed scenarios and the strategic options. Blue-Action climate scientists also participated in the workshops and played an important role providing information about possible impacts of climate change on Yamal.


As a result of this case study, three different scenarios were developed showing how different might be the future of the region. In one of the scenarios, Yamal petroleum business is shrinking by 2040 as a result of global energy transition. In another one, Yamal gas is, by contrast, booming and acknowledged worldwide as a “transition fuel”. In two of the total three scenarios, Yamal experiences severe consequences of climate change, such as rain-on-snow events or anthrax outbreaks and mercury releases out of thawing permafrost which create life-threatening challenges for indigenous communities. The third scenario, however, projects cooling instead of warming for Yamal and Europe as a result of interaction of a number of unexpected factors. This unlikely but still possible development creates challenges and opportunities which are totally different from those in other two scenarios.


Participation in the scenario construction helped stakeholders to deepen their knowledge about the impact of climate change and its interaction with other factors influencing the future of Yamal and to reflect on their cognitive biases, accepting the uncertainty of the future. The second part of the project, i.e. development of the strategic options, showed them how they can act in face of such an uncertain future and proactively prepare for different possible developments. Strategic options that might be rather robust against alternative possible developments and could thus be useful under alternative scenario conditions were developed for the three stakeholder groups: local communities including indigenous peoples, oil and gas business, and Russian Federal government.  


Overall, this work enabled stakeholders to make unbiased and more information-based decisions about the future of Yamal, to prepare for developments they have not considered so far, and to reduce risks and identify new opportunities in times of climate change.

Welcome to the new Blue-Action blog!

Over the following months we will be featuring short pieces introducing our team, discussing climate science and sharing our research to provide a closer look at what is happening within the project.

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