[Picture: Gobi Dessert, Mongolia]
Pastoral nomadism has been part of Mongolian culture for millennia, a lifestyle that aided the establishment of the largest empire of history and one that has outlived even this expansive empire. However nomadic ways of life seem to be under threat in modern times, it is estimated that 25-40% of modern Mongolians still live this traditional lifestyle, but this is a number in decline, as many a worried about the future of Mongolian culture and identity. Mongolia is home to many unrelenting environmental issues deforestation, desertification, and air and water pollution taking their collective toll on the country, but is Mongolia likely to be first to feel the brunt of the climate change crisis?
What threat does a changing climate pose to such Nomadic ways of life?
Is Mongolia going to be on the front line of climate change?
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Mongolia’s climate is changing faster than nearly anywhere on the face of the earth, with the country's average temperature rising 2.5C (4.5F) over the last 40 years. Meanwhile Mongolia has a multitude of other climate complications, being affected by a growing number of ‘dzud’ – a severely long and harsh winter, unforgiving summer droughts, and some of the worst levels of air and water pollution anywhere in the world. Recent studies have show that the recent droughts from 2002–2009 have been the bleakest in nearly a millennium, based on tree ring identification. This sorry state of affairs has led to livestock deaths across the country and millions have given up their traditional way of life and moved to Ulaanbaatar, the overpopulated capital city, which is only likely to worsen the climate burden. These people really are some of the first climate refugees and this situation shows no sign of changing anytime soon.