27. Siberia • Russia
We have selected 100 unique places on Earth that are projected to undergo profound changes within the next few generations. We based our selection of the 100 places on the 4th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Simply by drawing attention to the beauty of these places, 100 Places to Remember Before they Disappear creates an argument to preserve them. The 100 Places we have chosen to highlight, and the people who live in them, are in serious danger because of rising sea levels, rising temperatures and extreme weather events triggered by climate change. Among ambassadors are Joss Stone, Desmund Tutu for more info visit http://www.100places.com. From Gulags to Modern Cities Until the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway between 1891 and 1916, the vast region of Siberia remained virtually unexplored. Covering almost 10% of the Earths land surface, or 13.1 million square kilometres, Siberia extends eastwards from the Ural Mountains all the way to the strait between the Pacific and Arctic oceans. A brutal chapter of Russias history unfolded in the harsh arctic and subarctic climate of Siberia. For long periods of time, except for a few explorers and traders, the population of Siberia consisted mainly of prisoners exiled from western Russia. A system of labour camps, known as Gulag, was established during the Stalin era. The deportation of the prisoners reached staggering proportions and, between 1929 and 1953, at least 14 million people were sent to the camps, including criminals, political enemies of the state and sometimes even entire nationalities. The Gulag served as a source of labour for the mines of the remote Siberian plateau, which is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, coal, lead, gold and diamonds. Some of the camps of the Gulags have turned into major industrial cities, e.g. Norilsk, Vorkuta, and Magadan in the Kolyma Region to the east. However, Siberia is still sparsely populated, with a density of only three inhabitants per square kilometre. Many of the 36 million people in the region may soon face new problems. The Siberian oil and gas complexes, pipelines, roads and railways are all built on top of the permafrost that covers large parts of the region. In Yakutsk, the worlds largest permafrost city, everything apartments, hospitals, factories is built on top of wooden piles hammered into the permafrost. Forty years from now, it is projected that global warming will have caused the permafrost in the northern hemisphere to decline by 20-35%. If the permafrost thaws under the sites of oil and gas facilities, it could lead to leaks and cause extensive damage to the infrastructure. In some places, buildings are already less stable due to the thawing permafrost. By 2030, whole cities may have been lost, forcing people to rebuild their lives elsewhere.