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Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a fossil fuel war, climate scientist says

Money from fossil fuels is directly financing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a leading climate scientist says.
Kirill Kudryavtsev
AFP via Getty Images
Money from fossil fuels is directly financing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a leading climate scientist says.

Updated April 19, 2022 at 6:51 AM ET

In the days before Russia invaded Ukraine, a leading climate scientist, Svitlana Krakovska, was in Kyiv, racing to finish a landmark U.N. climate report. Then, Russian missiles and bombs started landing in her city. Colleagues offered to help her escape, but she stayed, trying to continue her climate research.

Krakovska argues that these two issues are connected – that climate-warming fossil fuels have enabled Russia's invasion.

"With our demand to put this embargo on Russian fossil fuels, it's directly connected because fossil fuels and money, they go directly to the Putin regime, to Russia, and it funds, actually, the war against Ukraine," said Krakovska, who is head of the Applied Climatology Laboratory at Ukraine's Hydrometeorological Institute.

"I hope that for people it will be clear that if we cut this oil and gas to Russia, they will make a very good choice, actually, to stop this aggression and stop to impact the climate system. So, 2 in 1, in fact."

President Biden and the U.S. instituted an import ban on Russian oil, liquified natural gas and coal in early March after Russia's invasion of Ukraine began. According to a White House statement, the U.S. imported nearly 700,000 barrels a day of crude oil and refined petroleum products from Russia last year.

"This step will deprive Russia of billions of dollars in revenues from U.S. drivers and consumers annually," the statement said.

But at the same time, President Biden has acknowledged the rising price at the pump for Americans, and the U.S. has leaned on other oil-producing nations like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and encouraged them to produce more energy to make up for the shortfall from Russia.

Krakovska said that it's not as simple as shutting off one supply entirely, even though it would be better for the planet if that were the case.

"I understand our human civilization actually depends on energy sources," she said while citing a U.N. climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that said changes in human behavior could majorly impact the trajectory of the Earth's temperature.

"I should say that if we go to this IPCC report it states very clearly that half of this emission, they can be cut just from the demand side," Krakovska said. "So maybe they just don't need so much fossil fuel, and we can make this transformation much more quickly."

Even before the war began, Krakovska said she could see the impacts of climate change in Ukraine, but now it was harder to focus on her work.

"In 2020, we even didn't have winter, which was really very unusual," she said. "But now we are in this war situation, and it's just very, very difficult to think about climate change and to speak on it in my country, in fact. That's why I started to speak to the international community, just to push for them to help us and to help the planet."

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
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Ashish Valentine
Ashish Valentine joined NPR as its second-ever Reflect America fellow and is now a production assistant at All Things Considered. As well as producing the daily show and sometimes reporting stories himself, his job is to help the network's coverage better represent the perspectives of marginalized communities.
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