Peat mining (in Ireland, not Russia...), photo: Herry Lawford
Though using peat as a fuel source on a small scale can be done with limited environmental impact, new Russian plans to radically increase the scale of peat mining for energy use are a climate change and ecological disaster in the making -- in total Russia's peat soils store some 113 gigatons of carbon. That's the word from Wetlands International:The alarm being raised here comes after a recent meeting of Energy Ministry of Russia (in Russian) which proposes expanding the nation's reliance on peat energy from 0.1% today to 10% in remote places.
Degraded Areas Often 10 Times the Size of the Mine
In addition to the increased carbon emissions caused by the mining of the peat, Wetlands International highlights the potential ecological consequences of this move saying that it "will destroy the ecology of large areas were mining takes place but also surrounding peatswamp areas that are indirectly drained because of the mining."
Peatlands in the subartic zones of Russia are very vulnerable to disturbances. Relatively limited activities such as a road have tremendous impacts on the surrounding areas as waterflows are blocked and as drainage causes the peatlands to subside and decompose. The degrading areas are often ten times the size of the area of the activity itself.
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