Climate change is turning more of Central Asia into desert

The rapid expansion will have significant impacts on ecosystems and the people and animals who rely on them.

Giorgia Guglielmi

Nature | June 16, 2022

The spread of deserts in Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries will alter the composition of ecosystems.Credit: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock

As global temperatures rise, desert climates have spread north by up to 100 kilometres in parts of Central Asia since the 1980s, a climate assessment reveals1.

The study, published on 27 May in Geophysical Research Letters, also found that over the past 35 years, temperatures have increased across all of Central Asia, which includes parts of China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. In the same period, mountain regions have become hotter and wetter — which might have accelerated the retreat of some major glaciers.

Such changes threaten ecosystems and those who rely on them, says Jeffrey Dukes, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, California. The findings are a “great first step” towards informing mitigation and adaptation policies, he says.

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Stockholm syndrome: What should ‘+50’ be about

The 50th anniversary celebration of the Stockholm conference should be about our common future, not the divisions of the past

Sunita Narain

Down To Earth | June 01, 2022

The Stockholm conference on the human environment marked the initiation of global consciousness on sustainability. It brought the world together to discuss the big issues of growth and environmental management.

This was the time when Rachel Carson, through her seminal book Silent Spring, had told the story of poisoning of nature. It was also the time when the industrialised West was battling against pollution and toxification.

Our colleague Anil Agarwal, who was at the conference in 1972, often recalled how Stockholm’s lakes were so contaminated with chemicals that you could develop a film negative in the water.

This conference was about the fallout of industrialisation and how to cope and mitigate its harmful impacts.

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Environment and war today

Farooque Chowdhury

Countercurrents | June 05, 2022

War environs environment.

War destructs and demolishes life, all forms of environment. It’s war’s powerful approach to contradictions within and with environment surrounding life. Wars including the current Ukraine War bear this signature of destruction of and on environment and ecology. The first victim is life; and, then comes surroundings of life that help sustain life. Activities to secure, nourish and sustain environment are hampered/suspended during war, and in war zones also.

Military activities, preparatory to war including training/drills/exercises, itself is threat to environment and ecology. Military/war expenditure is in direct and hostile contradiction with environment and ecology. The expenditure takes away a lot of resources, which can be allocated for life, steps to nourish and secure environment and ecology. The sphere of destruction of environment and ecology widens as the sphere of war widens. Today’s Ukraine is the witness. Iraq and Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Vietnam are witnesses. Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand as witnesses.

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Stockholm+50: Is science for just solutions

If science-policy interfaces are to deliver just and effective solutions to climate change, they must involve indigenous peoples and local communities

Pia M Kohler

Down To Earth | June 04, 2022

When presenting my research on global institutions established to guide policymaking on environmental challenges, my (mostly North American and European) audiences will often wonder at the need to scrutinise these science-policy interfaces. Isn’t the only thing that matters, someone will inevitably ask, is that we have asked the best scientists on the planet to guide us?

This is typically when I draw from Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain’s seminal 1991 piece, ‘Global warming in an unequal world’. Agarwal and Narain called out the environmental colonialism evident in a 1990 report by the US-based World Resources Institute purporting to measure a country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

I invite my interlocutors to consider the distinction Agarwal and Narain draw between “luxury” and “survival” emissions. We then consider what gets erased when we take up the now commonplace unit: the metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) or of CO2 equivalent.

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Stockholm+50: We need decentralisation of ‘power’

Power generation and transmission models that are local and self-sustaining can increase access to energy in the future

Koshy Mathew Cherail

Down To Earth | June 03, 2022

Availability and access to uninterrupted and reliable energy sources is a prerequisite to enable an equitable and just development of communities, nations, and regions at large.

Countries that have clear goals of raising the socio-economic conditions of their population have prioritised access to energy above other development goals.

Construction and operation of power plants, as well as ensuring a steady supply of fuel of consistent quality, is a time-consuming and capital-intensive process.

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50 years since Stockholm conference: The summer lingers

Richard Mahapatra

Down To Earth | May 31, 2022

From June 5 to June 16, 1972, countries across the world shed a bit of their sovereignty. The aim was to create a common governance structure for the planet’s environment and natural resources.

The occasion was the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, the first such worldwide convergence on planetary environment, with the theme ‘Only One Earth’.

When the participating 122 countries — 70 of them developing and poor countries — adopted the Stockholm Declaration on June 16, they essentially committed to 26 principles and an action plan that set in a multilateral environmental regime.

One of the overarching principles was that sovereignty should be subject to not causing harm to the environment of other countries as well.

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Global warming: 400 million tonnes CO2 pumped to atmosphere a year from this source the world is blind to

Gas flared at and gas facilities is greater than EU’s total import from Russia and a key source of methane emission

Down To Earth | May 06, 2022

Something that has not changed over 160 years of oil production is the deliberate burning of gas associated with it, called gas flaring. It is turning out to be a major source of methane emission, a greenhouse gas (GHG) “over 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a warming gas on a 20-year timeframe”.

The World Bank’s latest 2022 Global Gas Flaring Tracker Report underscored that the efforts to curb this global warming causing activity have “stalled” in the last one decade.

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Climate change will force new animal encounters — and boost viral outbreaks

Modelling study is first to project how global warming will increase virus swapping between species.

Natasha Gilbert

Nature | April 28, 2022

Bats will have a large contribution to virus transmission between species in the future, a modelling study finds.Credit: Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty

Over the next 50 years, climate change could drive more than 15,000 new cases of mammals transmitting viruses to other mammals, according to a study published in Nature1. It’s one of the first to predict how global warming will shift wildlife habitats and increase encounters between species capable of swapping pathogens, and to quantify how many times viruses are expected to jump between species.

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Debate: A critique of degrowth

An ecosocialist perspective in the context of a global Green New Deal

David Schwartzman

Climate and Capitalism | January 05, 2022

Ecosocialist responses to “degrowth” analysis and proposals have ranged from full support to total rejection. The author of the following critical commentary is an emeritus professor of biology at Howard University, and co-author of The Earth is Not for Sale (World Scientific, 2019). We encourage respectful responses in the comments, and hope to publish other views in future.

See also: Ecosocialism and degrowth: A reply, by Simon Butler

The positive contributions of the degrowth proponents should be recognized, in particular, their rethinking of economic growth under capitalism, critiquing its measure, the GNP/GDP, as well as pointing to capitalism’s unsustainable use of natural resources, in particular fossil fuels in its production of commodities for profit generation regardless of their impact on the health of people and the environment. Further, they wisely critique eco-modernists who claim that simply substituting the right technology into the present political economy of capitalism will be sufficient to meet human and nature’s needs.

But the degrowth solutions offered are highly flawed and their brand is not likely to be welcomed by the global working class, even as it attracts sections of the professional class.[1] Degrowth proponents commonly fail to unpack the qualitative aspects of economic growth, lumping all in one basket; i.e., sustainable/addressing essential needs of humans and nature versus unsustainable, leaving the majority of humanity in poverty or worse. Degrowthers point to the relatively privileged status of workers in the global North compared to those in the global South as a big part of the problem, instead of recognizing that the transnational working class will not only benefit from growth of sectors that meet its needs in both the global North and South but must be the leading force to defeat fossil capital.[1, 2, 3]

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Global warming to hit India the worst in Asia by 2070

Over 9 billion across the world likely to be exposed to annual average temperatures experienced only in the hottest deserts

Pulaha Roy

Down To Earth | November 23, 2021

Global warming to hit India the worst in Asia by 2070. Photo: iStock

For over 6,000 years, humans restricted their settlements to a climate niche or set of temperatures between 11 degrees Celsius and 15 degrees Celsius mean annual temperature. But global warming could trigger the next wave of migration — and at least 3 billion people would be affected by it by 2070. India would be among the worst-hit in Asia. 

A study by a group of researchers — called Future of the Human Climate Niche — projected that over 3 billion people, currently living in 0.8 per cent of the Earth’s surface that experiences average annual temperature of more than 29°C, would have to move to migrate to more places with suitable conditions.

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