Climate Change Threatens Fragile Economy and Vulnerable Ecology
Mongolia is facing multiple risks outlined in the recent World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2023. The country's fragile economy, heavily dependent on mining and agriculture, is particularly vulnerable to the risks of a cost-of-living crisis, energy insecurity, and geopolitical fragmentation.
Climate change poses a significant threat to Mongolia, as the country's economy is heavily dependent on agriculture and livestock, both of which are vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods. Additionally, the country's vast grassland and rich biodiversity are at risk of collapse due to climate change. The country's weak infrastructure also makes it difficult to mitigate these effects, with limited access to electricity and clean water, exacerbating the country's economic vulnerability.
One such extreme weather event unique to Mongolia is "dzud," which occurs when heavy snowfalls in winter follow a severe drought in summer, causing animals to perish due to a lack of grazing pastures and leaving herders unable to prepare hay and fodder to survive through the harsh winter.
The Government of Mongolia reports that over 60 percent of the country's territory is at high risk of dzud, and calls for early action and response to protect the livelihoods of herder households.
To mitigate these risks and build resilience, Mongolia must invest in renewable energy, adapt to the effects of climate change, diversify the economy, and invest in human development. Additionally, the country must also develop more robust infrastructure, including expanding access to electricity and clean water, improving transportation and communication networks, and strengthening institutions.
The President of Mongolia recently launched the "One Billion Tree" campaign to combat desertification and drought by planting one billion trees in the country.
The campaign is a positive step towards addressing the risks outlined in the Global Risks Report 2023, particularly those related to climate change and ecosystem collapse.
Reforestation can help to mitigate the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and providing a natural barrier against soil erosion and desertification. Additionally, it could help to increase the availability of water resources, by increasing the amount of water retained in the soil, which can help to combat drought.
Amar Adiya is Editor-in-Chief of Mongolia Weekly and a regional director at strategy firm BowerGroupAsia, helping Fortune 500 companies shape policies in Indo-Pacific.