Sunset on a snowy hay field in the Ural region of Russia. Credit: 7ynp100/Shutterstock

One big winner in President-elect Donald Trump’s denial of climate change could be Russia.

The Russian government is expected to benefit from record crop harvests in the coming decades as global warming begins transforming once frigid fields into temperate farmland, according to a recent United Nations report.

Vast stretches of Siberia, currently too cold to farm, are expected to warm and unleash new agricultural potential.

American farmers, meanwhile, are forecast to be among the biggest climate-change losers as heat waves ripple across the country destroying crops.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he doesn’t believe in global warming and during the campaign said he plans to overturn progress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Trump appointed Myron Ebell, who is one of the most prominent activists opposed to reducing global warming, to be head of his transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Although he’s since said he’ll keep an open mind on climate science, he reportedly plans on scrapping NASA’s climate research.

Russia is situated in the only region of the world where crop yields are forecast to drastically improve as a result of unchecked climate change, specifically seeing bountiful harvests for cereal crops that include wheat, corn, rice and barley, according to a 2016 U.N. report published in October.


The only other region expected to benefit is Europe, which will experience a slight productivity boost in northern countries.

But yields in Russia will improve as temperatures warm and the growing season becomes longer, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2016 annual report.

“Grain production in the Russian Federation may double, due to a northward shift of agricultural zones,” according to another U.N. study, published a year earlier.

Russia is quite unique in this regard.

SROSTKI, SIBERIA, RUSSIA - JULY 12: Med and bee honey for sale at farmers market on July 12, 2004 in Srostki, Siberia, Russia. Farmers markets are very popular in new Russia.
 Vendors sell honey and produce at a summer farmers market in 2004 in Srostki, Siberia, Russia. Credit: Baciu/Shutterstock

Scientists now have ample evidence the world is warming dangerously. It will hurt food production in most countries and lower overall global supplies compared to if the planet remained cooler.

Modeling exactly how global warming will impact weather patterns 35 years from now in various regions of the world is more difficult than identifying the now-clear trend that the planet is heating.

So the exact extent of climate change’s impact on harvests in Russia and other countries is a moving target for scientists. But the 2015 U.N. study Climate Change and Food Systems looked at several different models and concluded that in Russia, “considering more realistic scenarios, with limitations on both temperature and precipitation, the area potentially suitable for agriculture may increase by 64 percent.”

Russia is forecast to become a major cereal exporter by 2050, giving it sweeping international power over other countries struggling to grow enough food for their populations.

By 2050, if global warming continues unabated, heat waves will destroy millions of acres of crops in other countries formerly considered agricultural superpowers.

American farmers are forecast to be big losers in a world of unchecked global warming, according to the models used by the United Nation’s report.

Dry corn field
Dry corn field Credit: Wildeside/Shutterstock

Tim Thomas, an American economist who helped work on the modeling forecasts for the United Nations, estimated that corn yields in places like Iowa, Nebraska and other states will likely decline by more than 30 percent as heat waves scorch the countryside – costing American corn farmers the equivalent of about $15 billion of their 2015 harvest. Currently, America is the world’s largest producer of corn.

The impact of global warming on food production will result in higher rates of malnutrition and hunger in every region of the world – except the former Soviet Union countries that include Russia, according to the 2016 United Nations report. Americans will see the impacts on grocery store shelves, as costs increase on everything from milk to energy bars to fruit juices.

Russia’s shadow lingered over this election. Government experts concluded Russian hackers tried to influence the presidential election by releasing private Democratic Party emails. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham this week called for an investigation into Russia’s election hacking.

Less than a week after being elected, Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and announced plans to strengthen relations and work together.

Trump denied any connection with Putin during the election, but Russia later boasted about it.

Nathan Halverson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @eWords.

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Nathan Halverson (he/him) is an Emmy Award-winning producer for Reveal, covering business and finance with a current emphasis on the global food system. Before joining Reveal, Halverson worked on projects for FRONTLINE, the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and PBS NewsHour. He was the principal reporter on Reveal's story about the Chinese government’s involvement in the takeover of America’s largest pork company, Smithfield Foods Inc. He was awarded a 2014 McGraw Fellowship by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and he received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Minnesota. He has won a New York Times Chairman’s Award and has received reporting honors from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, California Newspaper Publishers Association, San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and Associated Press News Executives Council. Halverson is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.