Climate change could thaw the frozen landscape of Asian Russia enough by the 2080s to make it more habitable for humans, new research has found, and possibly lead to Siberia becoming the center of Russian civilization. A team from the Krasnoyarsk Federal Research Center in Russia and the National Institute of Aerospace in the US projected the potential for settlement throughout the century, using both current data and predicted climate scenarios, Phys.org reports. The results were published in Environmental Research Letters. "Previous human migrations have been associated with climate change," the authors said, and it could happen again. Asian Russia accounts for 77% of Russia's land mass, but only 27% of its people; the population is concentrated in the south, which the most comfortable climate of the region.
Under one scenario involving extreme climate change, permafrost coverage of the region could drop from 65% to 40% by 2080. The warming could cause natural hazards such as droughts and thunderstorms, per Newsweek, and the researchers warn that "the transition period for adjusting to new environments would be complex and hard." Saying that climate change is unavoidable at this point, the researchers said governments need to enact policies to develop infrastructure and agriculture for a warmer region now. If that happens, they say, "We expect that Siberia may be attractive for human habitability." In fact, the researchers told Newsweek, "Siberia may become the center of Russian civilization and a land of great opportunity." (Read more Siberia stories.)