If Russia needed to be reminded of the costs of ignoring climate change and the transition to cleaner energy, 2020 has delivered. A devastating Arctic fuel spill appears to have been caused by melting permafrost. A heatwave has rekindled Siberian wildfires, which last year burnt through 16-million hectares and choked cities. Oil, meanwhile, is still convalescing after sinking to its lowest price in more than two decades.

Unfortunately, the alarm isn’t ringing yet in the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin, whose power base relies on hydrocarbons, has vacillated on global warming over the years. He has moved on from outright scepticism, but he remains intrigued by the potential profit from a thawing Arctic and unpersuaded by climate-change prevention measures that would carry heavy short-term costs...

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