Mongolia currently holds the title for fastest growing economy on earth. Most of its growth is from mining copper, gold, iron, and other metals. Mining companies are pretty much free to dig up the Mongolian Steppes. They also get a free pass to dump their pollution with practically no oversight. Corruption in government is everywhere.
But, Mongolia faces many environmental problems besides pollution (and an upcoming epidemic of cancer - invest in pharmaceuticals people!). Climate change is expected to tear apart the country at its environmental seams.
The country is 80% grasslands. Cattle ranchers depend on these grasses for healthy stocks. But, drought and desertification (healthy land turning into dry desert) is taking hold. Al Jazeera explains the problem much better than I can:
Mongolia faces desertification and climate change, but new ways of managing pasture land could help.
Mongolia is the country of endless plains and eternal blue skies. Eighty per cent of the land area is covered by grassland, giving home to about 35 million horses, cattle, sheep, goats and camels. Half of the country’s population of 2.7 million depends on livestock production, which contributes more than 20 per cent to the country’s GDP. More than these numbers can tell, nomadic pastoralism is a way of life. For centuries, herders have roamed the grasslands “following our animals”, as the herders’ adage goes, building, packing, and rebuilding their traditional gers or tents, to make their living from nature’s bounty.
And, yet, this ancient lifestyle is under threat. A decade ago, herders first observed the impacts of climate change with the increase in severe weather events like storms, droughts and extremely harsh winters, known as zud. The 2010 zud was one of the worst ever, resulting in the death of approximately 8.5 million livestock or 20 per cent of the 2009 national herd. Seven hundred seventy thousand herders were affected, of which 43,500 were left without a single animal; 164,000 lost more than half of their livestock. Herders and the government alike were not prepared and ill-equipped to deal with the consequences despite ample warning.
The 2009 national assessment on climate change in Mongolia summarised a number of major trends: Since 1940, the annual mean temperature has increased by 2.14 degrees Celsius, winter precipitation has increased and warm season precipitation has slightly decreased. Recent research on climate change projections for the rest of the century suggests that winters will become milder and snowy; summer seasons will become warmer; annual precipitation will increase up to 20 per cent; and anomalous climate phenomena, such as extreme winters, will become a common feature. Nomadic livelihoods, which fully depend on the weather, are becoming increasingly vulnerable as a result.
However, increased vulnerability is not only caused by the impacts of climate change. Overgrazing has also played a role in degrading scarce natural resources. Up to 30 per cent of Mongolia’s grassland biomass production has been lost over the past 40 years. At the same time, the Gobi desert, which dominates the southern half of the country, has been steadily expanding north at a pace of 150 km every 20 years. When travelling through central Mongolia, one can easily observe this process firsthand - where a few years ago, there were still pastures and patches of cropland, now only sandy fields remain.
Well worth reading the rest at Al Jazeera
GMOs are a controversial climate adaptation measure. But, drought resistant crops are necessary.
Agricultural biotechnology companies have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing plants that can withstand the effects of a prolonged dry spell. Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, has received regulatory approval for DroughtGard, a corn variety that contains the first genetically modified trait for drought resistance.
Seed makers, such as Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. of Johnston, Iowa, and Swiss company Syngenta, are already selling drought-tolerant corn varieties, conceived through conventional breeding.
At stake: a $12-billion U.S. seed market, with corn comprising the bulk of sales. The grain is used in such things as animal feed, ethanol and food. The push is also on to develop soybean, cotton and wheat that can thrive in a world that’s getting hotter and drier.
"Drought is definitely going to be one of the biggest challenges for our growers," said Jeff Schussler, senior research manager for Pioneer, the agribusiness arm of DuPont. "We are trying to create products for farmers to be prepared for that."
Their efforts come amid concerns about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and the unforeseen consequences of this genetic tinkering. Californians in November will vote on Proposition 37, which would require foods to carry labels if they were genetically modified. The majority of corn seed sold is modified to resist pests and reap higher yields.
Opponents say the label would unnecessarily dampen further development that is intended to feed a growing global population dependent on the U.S., the largest exporter of corn and soybean.
"Trying to create drought-tolerant crops is not going to be easy to do," said Kent Bradford, director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis. “We certainly need all the tools [available] to do that, and that includes conventional breeding and adding transgenic traits. We don’t need to stigmatize these approaches.”
Great read via LATimes
No longer the shopless continent
Unilever’s push into Africa is a return to familiar territory. The firm made a fifth of its profits in Africa until the 1970s, when it shifted its attentions to Asia. Now it is back, employing 30,000 people on the continent and shifting soap, soup and so on worth €3 billion ($3.7 billion)—out of total worldwide sales of €46 billion. It is already Africa’s biggest supplier of consumer goods, and aims to double sales in the next five years by beefing up investment and bringing in more of its brands.
In spite of the risks, businessfolk are upbeat. A couple of decades ago, most African governments made life very hard for business. Now policies are more market-friendly, albeit with frequent relapses: Zambia, for example, recently banned the use of American dollars in local transactions—a needless extra hassle for firms operating there.
Still, the corridor chatter at sub-Saharan conferences these days is cheerful. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, says that cynicism about Africa has turned to optimism. “We have a sense that things are really getting better,” says Mr Braeken. Africa is not only about mining and oil any more. But, he says, the continent still needs to overcome what George Bush, in another context, called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.
Via The Economist
Some adaptation is going to freak people out. Actually, stupid, link-baiting reporting is going to freak people out…
Cattle are being bred with genes from their African cousins who are accustomed to hot weather. New corn varieties are emerging with larger roots for gathering water in a drought. Someday, the plants may even be able to “resurrect” themselves after a long dry spell, recovering quickly when rain returns.
Across American agriculture, farmers and crop scientists have concluded that it’s too late to fight climate change. They need to adapt to it with a new generation of hardier animals and plants specially engineered to survive, and even thrive, in intense heat, with little rain.
Adapt yo food: via WaPo
"Kusum Athukorala, one of the country’s leading experts on water management, agrees that women are key to adapting effective measures to deal with water challenges and changing climate patterns.
“Women are the foot soldiers of climate change adaptation,” said Athukorala who heads the Network of Women Water Professionals, Sri Lanka (NetWwater) and the Women for Water Partnership…
However, despite their importance, women are still being largely left out of the decision making, according to a new report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). The report - The Challenges of Securing Women’s Tenure and Leadership for Forest Management: The Asian Experience - found that gender discrimination is still rampant.
Arvind Khare, RRI’s senior director of country and regional programmes, said that women’s roles should not only be recognized but should also be enforced. He took the case of land rights in rural China, where women often find themselves losing land, due to cultural and social norms, despite laws that are gender neutral on paper.
“How can we look at climate adaptation and food security when those who do most of the work at ground level have no say?” he asked.