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.
Anonymous asked: Hello! Do you think that environmental protection can successfully be driven by free-market forces? Can we find a successful solution (or a means of mitigation and/or adaptation) to climate change in a free-market?
Thanks for the note. There’s more than one way to manage the environment, and the majority are not free market approaches.
There are many different “environments” that require a mix of solutions. State and federal parks and conservation areas, for example. Research forests, coastal develop restrictions, historic preservation, agricultural techniques, even local zoning by-laws all serve to protect the environment in various ways. And then there’s are huge federal laws like the Endangered Species Act and enforcement agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.
So, I take issue with the premise of your question. I suppose you’re getting at trading carbon credits, which I’ll have to defer on commenting on.
Thanks for your note. Yeah, check out research from UNESCO-IHE.
I did a great project with them in the Netherlands this past spring. They’re the world experts on water security and policy issues. Dig around the site, there are many links to partner orgs that do good research on exactly the issue you bring up.
These diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites, and affect more than one billion people, mainly in the tropics, where the most vulnerable developing world populations are concentrated.
But the map of tropical diseases like malaria, Chagas’ disease, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis and dengue fever, is starting to change.
Tropical diseases transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes, flies, ticks or snails are directly affected by conditions in the ecosystems they inhabit, such as changes in humidity, water levels, temperature or rainfall, experts explain.
“Global warming is ‘tropicalising’ subtropical regions; rising temperatures could bring an explosion of parasite and insect vectors that are expanding into North America, the Southern Cone of South America, Australia and New Zealand,” Costa Nery said.
One sign of this, said the president of the SBMT, is the spread of leishmaniasis in Europe by travelling persons and dogs. He explained that the disease, which is endemic in southern Europe, could continue to spread northward if temperatures keep rising.
At the same time, climate variation in the tropics and its effects on the frequency of flooding and drought “could also modify the dynamic of the transmission of diseases,” with the emergence of vectors that alter the population’s immunity and resistance.
This might be the best video describing Arctic ice melt I’ve ever seen. It is also the scariest. The Arctic is the Earth’s air conditioner. It helps regulate temperatures around the globe in a variety of ways. Most importantly, the Arctic provides stability. Once the ice is melted, the system blows up and gets all out of wack. It impacts everything from fisheries to weather to coastal infrastructure to animal habitat. Click here to read an easy summary by WaPo for more reasons why this matters.
I’ve seen, heard, read, viewed, participated, and debated dozens and dozens of aspects of climate change. This one, this video, is one of the best explainers of how much trouble the Earth is in.
…produced by independent videographer Peter Sinclair for The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media explains what expert scientists now find to be the lowest extent of Arctic sea ice in recorded history.
“The top ocean predators in the North Pacific could lose as much as 35 percent of their habitat by the end of the century as a result of climate change, according to a study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The analysis, conducted by a team of 11 American and Canadian researchers, took data compiled from tracking 4,300 open-ocean animals over a decade and looked at how predicted temperature changes would alter the areas they depend on for food and shelter. Some habitats could shift by as much as 600 miles while others will remain largely unchanged, the scientists found, and these changes could affect species in different ways…
At the same time, some highly mobile species such as tuna and seabirds may benefit from the changes because they will either be able to adjust more easily or have wider foraging opportunities.
The scientists identified key habitat areas by using satellite measurements of sea surface temperature and chlorophyll-a, which indicates an area’s productivity, along with migration patterns charted by the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) project. Using U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections that global temperatures could rise between 1.8 to 10.8 degrees by 2100, the researchers modeled how these changes would affect habitat.
The North Pacific Transition Zone — which marks where cold, nutrient-rich polar water comes into contact with warmer, nutrient-poor water — will shift the most dramatically, by as much as 600 miles to the north during most seasons. According to the paper, this major migration corridor, which stretches from California to Japan, could lose as much as 20 percent of its species diversity.
By contrast, the California Current, which runs along North America’s west coast, will not be affected, because the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water will continue to occur and will stay largely in place.
“It will act like a buffer to climate change,” Hazen said in an interview. “That’s a kind of saving grace to the central California environment.””
Sea level has risen by about eight inches overall worldwide since around 1900 and the waters are expected to rise an estimated three feet by 2100. “Sometimes we forget that the damage in New Orleans in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina came not from wind or rain, but from the storm surge [that caused flooding] ahead of that storm,” Lemonick says. If sea levels rise as expected, “all of those storm surges are going to be starting from a level three feet higher, which means that they have much greater potential to drive inland, to wash over barrier islands, and to really inundate the coast. … Many, many millions of people and trillions of dollars of infrastructure are in serious danger, if those projections are correct.”
Obama administration green lights killing 170 wolves in Wyoming after private businesses win years of lobby efforts. Techniques will be aerial gunning and gassing pups in dens. Via. (Connection to climate change).
The forest fires that have hit Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the rest of the region, this summer, have not only damaged people’s property.
They have also destroyed thousands of trees and herbs, possibly posing an existential threat to some rare species.
Professor Sulejman Redzic, an ecology expert, told Balkan Insight that although it is hard to tell precisely what species have suffered most in recent days, many rare types of trees and herbs have clearly suffered badly in the fires.
“Having in mind my knowledge of the flora and fauna in the river Neretva area and the sites around Konjic, Mostar and Mt Prenj, I would say that some endemic species may even have gone,” Redzic said.
Redzic said that some appear to grow only around Lake Boracko, on the hill near Konjic, half-way between Sarajevo and Mostar, where firemen and locals have been fighting a large fire since last week.
“The habitats of many animals have also been destroyed there and it could take years for them to recover and for many herbs to grow again,” Redzic explained.
“The destruction of animal and plant habitats by fire will lead to a breakdown in communication even among those species that survived the blazes,” the ecologist added.
“American eels were once found in great abundance on the East Coast, often quite far inland, but dams have sealed off much of their routes and their population has plummeted. However, the good news is that some of those old dams are no longer needed and are being torn down.
In 2004 the 22-foot-high Embrey Dam on the Rappahannock River in Virginia was dismantled. Since then, American eel numbers have shot up in headwater streams nearly 100 miles away, according to research just published by the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.
Researchers measured eels in Shenandoah National Park streams and found significant increases in numbers two years after the dam came down, with those gains accelerating since.
“Our study shows that the benefits of dam removal can extend far upstream,” Nathaniel Hitt, a USGS biologist and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “American eels have been in decline for decades and so we’re delighted to see them begin to return in abundance to their native streams.”
The study authors noted that the American eel is being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.”
How cool is this! And it’s threatened by Pebble Mine, a proposed gold and copper mine that would be the biggest in the world. The National Resources Defense Council is kicking their ass, but they need your help.
Add this to your list of cool things we didn’t previously know about nature: Scientists working in the Wood River watershed of Southwest Alaska found that salmon play an important role in pollinating a flowering plant. How? Kneeling angelica, a 3-6 foot streamside plant, has evolved to bloom about a week after salmon return to a stream to spawn, at which point many of the salmon die or are consumed by bears and other critters. Blowflies, who pollinate the flowers by swarming the blooms, then lay eggs in the decomposing carcasses of the salmon. Those larvae emerge as adults the following year just in time to pollinate the flowers again.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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