Global warming could deal destructive blows to Russia’s defence infrastructure over the next 22 years, a top official recently told Moscow.

Defence infrastructure, including key airfields, oil storage facilities and strategic oil reservoirs, face the risk of destruction from melting permafrost in Russia’s far north by 2030, Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations, Mr Ruslan Tsalikov told the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament.

Mr Tsalikov described the damage that would result from widespread permafrost melt as a catastrophe.He added that Russia’s widespread coniferous forests could be inundated by flooding triggered by the unprecedented warmer weather resulting from climate change.

“If the annual temperature rises by one or two degrees, the permafrost could decrease 50 per cent,” Mr Tsalikov said. “The risk of flooding would also double.”

Western Siberia’s permafrost is currently disappearing at the rate of 4 centimetres per year. That would cause the permafrost’s southern boundaries to retreat by an average of nearly 50 miles across northern Russia over the next 20 years.

Mr Tsalikov’s warnings mark a significant reversal from previous Russian complacency on the issue of global warming. Russian scientists and top officials have readily acknowledged the reality of global warming for years, but they have often described it as a welcome process because it frees up enormous areas of land and ocean floor for human exploitation and habitation.

Russia also announced it is revising its strategy to concentrate more military resources in the far north to establish and enforce its claims to the vast reserves of oil, gas and other natural resources that it expects will be discovered in the Arctic.Mr Tsalikov’s comments reveal that Russian officials now recognise the process will not be cost-free and likely will involve catastrophic damage to existing military assets and infrastructure on an enormous scale.