A Russian farmer displays grains of wheat that have been ruined by excessive heat and dehydration in Mokrye Kurnali on July 20. No rain has fallen since April. Image Credit: AFP

Moscow: Environmental groups said on Monday, global warming was to blame for Russia's worst drought in decades. They expressed hope this would persuade Russia to cut its carbon emissions which are among the world's highest.

Since late June, central parts of European Russia have suffered scorching heat, with temperatures reaching 40C in the shade. The heat has destroyed crops in an area the size of Portugal.

The drought and heatwave have dominated state-run media for weeks but many Russians remain sceptical about climate change. Green groups say the apathy has allowed the government to avoid tough measures to cut carbon emissions.

"The heatwave of the past two months is a consequence of climate change and Greenpeace experts have found evidence of this," the organisation said. "The government of Russia, one way or another, will have to take measures to combat the effects of climate change."

Greenpeace said the drought was compounded by an unusually dry 2009, which sapped moisture from the earth in important agricultural regions.

Spring 2009 was unusually dry and a dry early winter sucked the remaining moisture from the earth, Greenpeace said. The snow that fell in mid-winter was unable to soak into the frozen soil and was washed away by spring floods.

Alexei Yablokov, head of the Green Russia political movement and an adviser to the Russian Academy of Sciences, said this summer's heatwave had broken all records.

"This is linked to global warming, though of course you can't say it's the only cause. Such episodes are very important to convince people, but I am not sure anything will change quickly," he told Reuters.

Russia's national weather service said that, despite evidence of a gradual rise in winter temperatures in recent years, there was not enough evidence yet to prove that global warming was changing Russia's climate.