Europe is about to introduce stronger economic sanctions against Russia. Given Putin's past behavior I think it is likely that there will be Russian countersanctions.
The most relevant could be cutting off of gas for Europe. In the long run this would be self defeating because it accelerates energy independence from Russia.But nevertheless I think this is quite possible (est. prob: 25%). If this would come at the same time as below average temperatures in March and April in countries heavily depending on natural gas for heating (e.g. in Germany > 50% if you include district heating), then many households could find themselves temporarily without heating (est. prob: 10%). Of course, that is nothing compared to the hardship of the Ukrainian people but nevertheless it could make sense to make some cheap preparations:
1. If your heating is based on gas or on gas based district heating: Buying an electricfan heater. Cheap devices are currently sold on Amazon for less than 20 Euros. (Yesterday, I have paid 16 Euros for a heater).
2. If your cooking stove is based on gas and you don't have an electric alternative (e.g. a microwave oven): Buying an electric hot plate. Single hot plates are currently about 20 Euros.
Both purchases would have to be made before Putin announces a gas embargo because, I believe, after that they will be sold out immediately.
Anything else on could do to prepare?
How much (if at all) does Germany rely on natural gas for energy production? Is there a risk of power loss if the natural gas is cutoff or is only heating/cooking at risk?
Yes, there is that risk. In 2021 about 10% electricity with natural gas, and in addition hard coal (where the main source is Russia, too) 9%. This year probably more, because two additional nuclear power plants have been closed at the end of 2021.
But these numbers underestimate the problem: Natural gas is used to even out fluctuations in the production of electricity with wind or solar (33% of electricity in 2021, 23% wind, 10% solar). Therefore a lack of gas could seriously destabilise electricity production.
Because of that risk I would predict that the use of gas for electricity will have priority compared to private heating, decreasing the risk of electric grid breakdown but increasing the risk of supply shortages for private households (and industrial production, which uses even more natural gas than is used for heating).
There is a variety of solar power camping gear that can be used for showers, cooking, lighting, etc. Some subset of this might be worth looking at.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/23/europe-winter-gas-reserves-russian-imports-german-analysis-ukraine suggests that we do have enough gas reserves to heat in Germany in March and April.
As long as it does not get really cold, according to the article.
It may be that I have overestimated the risk of a very cold late winter (implicitly I used 40% to get from 25% gas embargo risk to 10% risk for shortages).
What timescales are you considering? There are probably consequences further down the line, not just this spring.
I was thinking about short term consequences. What do you think could be longer term consequences against which one should prepare now?
I am thinking mostly about the situation in Ukraine (the harvest, the next school year, the next winter). I guess in Europe, the consequences and the timescales to consider will be different - maybe more of the "which college should I choose to study in for the next several years" kind?
As I lack information on Europe it seems more prudent to be more vague. (Huh, that's a thought - "what kind of information does one need here".) What areas of life can be affected? Maybe you will end up learning to cook exotic foods just to take your mind off things (in the best possible way) or developing a personal ranking of the news sources. It all depends on what you want.
There’s a prediction market for the chance of Russia announcing counter-sanctions at https://manifold.markets/Gabrielle/will-russia-decide-to-stop-deliveri