A leading Ukrainian scientist says war is “closing the window of opportunity” for the world to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Dr Svitlana Krakovska, who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spoke to me on Zoom from her apartment in Kyiv.
“It’s amazing how the people of Ukraine united against one enemy,” she said.
“If we all unite against climate change, we can survive as a civilisation.”
Dr Krakovska was taking part in the final stages of approving the IPPC’s latest major assessment on the impacts of climate change when the invasion made it impossible for her to continue her work.
“Everything stopped,” she said. “I can’t think about climate change, because I can’t think about anything other than to try to survive.”
But, describing herself as part of the country’s “sofa army” she said she was doing what she could from her home, where she and her family are sheltering, to speak out about the situation in Ukraine.
She stressed that fossil fuels, and Europe’s reliance on exported oil and gas from Russia, were “funding the war”.
“The money that’s invested in fossil fuels, they’re using against us,” she said. “Against freedom. Against humanity.”
Europe’s reliance on Russia for energy was cited by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in a speech on Tuesday, in which she urged a faster transition to renewable energy, saying: “We simply cannot rely so much on a supplier that explicitly threatens us.”
Dr Krakovska pointed out that scientists had been laying out the evidence for a need to make that transition for decades. “To me it’s obvious,” she said. “If we want to survive, we have to do this.”
But she pointed out that the window of opportunity to slash emissions – by, in part, switching to those low carbon and renewable energy sources – is closing very rapidly.
“This war,” she added, “it makes this window of opportunity even more narrow, because now we have to solve this problem first.”
The veteran climate scientist has travelled the world in her research to understand the impacts of rising global temperatures. In 2021, she received an award from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for her participation in an Antarctic expedition.
In recent weeks, as Russian troops gathered on the Ukrainian border and as war finally, and suddenly, came to Ukraine, she told me that she had received many calls from colleagues around the world, offering her research posts in their institutions.
“I just can’t do it,” she said, choking back tears. “This is my motherland.”