‘Green’ colonialism is ruining Indigenous lives in Norway

‘Green’ colonialism is ruining Indigenous lives in Norway

SOURCE: Al Jazeera

DATE: August 1, 2020

SNIP: In April this year, wind energy company Eolus Vind broke ground for the Oyfjellet wind plant, a new wind power project in Saepmie, the ancestral lands of the Indigenous Saami people, which stretch across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. This led to a conflict between the Norwegian authorities, project developers and the Saami reindeer herding community Jillen Njaarke, which reveals the numerous reckless practices behind Europe’s “green” energy transition.

The German owners of the Oyfjellet wind project, Aquila Capital, have already made a lucrative deal to supply the power produced by the wind plant to the nearby aluminium smelter by Alcoa. On the project’s website, the developers claim to “promote growth, green industry and green employment through long-term investment in renewable energy”.

Considering the effect of their actions on the Jillen Njaarke, their mission statement is not only misleading, but is also covering up the fact that the project is disrupting the sustainable way of living of the Saami community, which protects their land.

Research demonstrates that the Saami’s semi-domesticated reindeer avoid grazing in areas where they can see or hear wind turbines. A project such as Oyfjellet would disrupt the migration of reindeer, especially in the winter, when they are often weakened and at risk, particularly pregnant mothers and newborn calves.

It is yet another source of distress for the Sami herders and their reindeer, adding to the uncertainties of a rapidly changing climate, increasing pressures on ecosystems and land grabbing.

On paper, the Norwegian reindeer herding act should provide legal protection against the blocking of reindeer migration routes, like in the case of this new wind plant project, but the Norwegian authorities allowed the construction to move ahead.

On June 31, the reindeer Saami herders from Jillen Njaarke announced they were going to court to stop the wind plant. They are determined to protect their lands from yet another encroachment by the Norwegian authorities. The community is genuinely afraid for its future.

“Humans are born, and they die, but the mountains live forever,” Heihka Kappfjell, a 53-year-old reindeer herder from Jillen Njaarke, told us. “What frightens me the most about the wind industry is that without the mountains there is nothing left for us Saami. Nothing that protects us, takes care of us and gives us comfort.”

Some 98 percent of Norway’s electricity production today comes from renewable energy sources. But in most public debates or political decisions, the detrimental impact that this has had on Saami livelihoods is readily overlooked. The Oyfjellet wind plant is not the first encroachment Jillen Njaarke have faced. Various hydropower plants in their land have reduced pastures and have exposed their herds to a higher risk when crossing unstable ice on water dams.

The Norwegian government has already given out more than 100 additional concessions for wind power developments, some of which fall on Saami land.

And it is not just Norway that has endangered the Saami livelihood pursuing “green energy”. Across Saepmie, the governments of Sweden, Finland and Russia have also promoted energy and resource extraction projects that make it impossible for the Saami to continue their traditional ways of life.

The conflict around the Oyfjellet wind plant shows how such policies can contribute to Europe’s long tradition of oppression and destruction of indigenous territories. The Saami community consider these kinds of programmes “green colonialism”.

Regrettably, many vocal environmental movements in Europe tend to remain silent on these issues. Thus they offer implicit support for the colonisation of Indigenous peoples and lands in the name of “environmentally friendly” resource extraction.

In 2016, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples published a damning report that highlights the Saami people’s struggle against land grabs in Saepmie. Echoing many researchers, Saami politicians and organisations like Protect Sapmi, the report warned of the devastating impact of industrial developments in the Saami ancestral land and called out the ongoing violation of Saami rights.

“In addition to all of the infrastructure developments, there is also the construction of ever more cabins, mines, and power stations. They say it’s only a little bit here and there, but in sum, it is quite a lot,” Per Martin Kappfjell, a 28-year-old herder from Jillen Njaarke, told us. Such encroachment transforms Saami land into a traumatic stress environment for herders and reindeer.

Unfortunately, the case of the recently constructed Fosen wind power complex, situated some 300km (190 miles) south of Oyfjellet, does not provide much hope that going to court would bring justice for the Jillen Njaarke community.

The Saami reindeer herders from Fovsen Njaarke community took legal action against Fosen Vind, the developers of Europe’s largest onshore wind power complex, located on the Fosen peninsula. The reindeer herders argued the construction would violate their right to practise their indigenous reindeer herding culture in the future.

Earlier in June, the Frostating Court of Appeal recognised that a third of the community’s winter pastures were destroyed by the construction and ordered 89 million krones ($9.4m) to be paid as compensation. The verdict shows that proving that wind energy projects need be stopped to ensure the cultural survival of the Saami is incredibly difficult.

“This verdict shows that human rights conventions in Norwegian law do not protect us Saami”, Arvid Jama, a reindeer herder from the affected Saami reindeer herding community in Fosen, told us.

By awarding the community compensation for their losses, rather than stopping the operations of the wind plant, the court has put a monetary value on the Saami way of life. In other words, it reinforced the tendency of the Norwegian government and the industry to “sell” indigenous rights in the name of development and resource extraction.

“Herding is not a money industry. It’s a way of life. It’s cultural heritage, your family, your identity, your connection to the land“, Silje Karine Muotka, member of the governing council at the Saami Parliament of Norway, said after the verdict. “We have a saying in Saami – It takes a village to raise a kid. This includes taking responsibility for the relations between humans, reindeer and the land.”

The mutual dependence between humans, the lands, waters and “non-human relatives” is integral to Saami world views and ancestral practices. This kind of reciprocity should also be central to finding new and more effective solutions to current global challenges, such as sustainable food production, community resilience and land use.

As democratic processes led by majoritarian societies fail to include indigenous perspectives, exhausting and expensive lawsuits become one of the only pathways left for the Saami community. Yet, at the core, these kinds of conflicts are not merely legal problems. They call into question the fundamental principles underlying our ways of organising as societies.

Sidelining human and indigenous rights from the climate agenda is a much broader issue. Norway’s updated commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement from February 2020 barely mentions the importance of consulting Indigenous communities. In practice, the Norwegian government’s continued support for “green colonialism”, makes the statement seem like nothing more than an attempt to uphold a questionable image of Norway as a frontrunner of climate action and protector of indigenous rights.

These kinds of deceptive strategies are typical for colonial nations. Technically, there were “consultations” with the reindeer herders of Jillen Njaarke before giving the green light to the construction. However, the government and developers never considered whether the Indigenous herders wanted a wind energy complex at all. According to the herders, they were only allowed to pick between two different yet equally damaging projects.

“We got to choose between being shot in the left or the right leg,” Heihka said of the “consultation”. The actions of the government, Eolus Vind and their lawyers were “completely against democratic principles”, he added.

The “green” energy industry promises to build a sustainable wonderland with electric cars and bullet trains powered by limitless renewable energy supply. It reinforces the dangerous idea that we can maintain our addiction to high-energy lifestyles in a sustainable way.

British hedgehog now officially classified as vulnerable to extinction

British hedgehog now officially classified as vulnerable to extinction

SOURCE: Country Living and British Hedgehog Preservation Society

DATE: July 30, 2020

SNIP: British hedgehogs are now officially vulnerable to extinction, new research has found.

The Red List conservation report, which was conducted by the Mammal Society, explains that the spiky creatures could be at risk of dying out completely if we don’t take drastic action to prevent their numbers dropping.

As well as hedgehogs, the research also found that 11 of our 47 native mammals are at risk of extinction, due to historical persecution, a loss of habitat, development and the introduction of non-native species. These include the water vole, hazel dormouse, wildcat and the grey long-eared bat.

The BHPS is calling on Government, in the light of this new internationally recognised classification, to increase the protection offered to the hedgehog under the Wildlife and Countryside Act by moving it to schedule 5, allowing the level of protection appropriate for such a keystone species in decline.

Extra 23 million people could face coastal flooding within 30 years, even with emission cuts

Extra 23 million people could face coastal flooding within 30 years, even with emission cuts

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: July 30, 2020

SNIP: The combined impacts of human-caused sea level rise, storm surges and high tides could expose an extra 23 million people to coastal flooding within the next 30 years, even with relatively ambitious cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, a new global study has found.

In a worst-case scenario where emissions continue to rise and no efforts are made to adapt to the rising sea levels, coastal assets worth US$14.2tn – about 20% of global GDP – could be at risk by the end of the century.

Rising sea levels caused by global heating that expands the oceans and melts land-based ice could mean that one-in-100-year floods occurring now would become one-in-10-year floods by the end of the century. As much as 4% of the world’s population could be affected by flooding.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, identified “hotspot” regions at risk of extensive flooding.

South-eastern China, Australia’s north, Bangladesh, West Bengal and Gujarat in India were especially at risk. In the United States, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland were considered to be most exposed, as were the UK, northern France and northern Germany.

But the study also shows how the risk of damage from rising sea levels and storm surges will continue to rise even if emissions are kept to a level that would keep the global temperature rise to well below 2C by the end of this century.

The new study builds on findings published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2019 that predicted extreme sea level events could be near annual occurrences by the middle of this century on many coastlines.

“The sea level rise is already baked in – even if we reduce emissions today the sea level will continue to rise because the glaciers will continue to melt for hundreds of years.”

According to the study, about 148 million people globally are exposed to flooding events today.

Baghdad soars to 125 blistering degrees, its highest temperature on record

Baghdad soars to 125 blistering degrees, its highest temperature on record

SOURCE: Washington Post

DATE: July 29, 2020

SNIP: Record high temperatures have been plaguing the Middle East, the mercury soaring to extreme levels during a blistering and unforgiving heat wave. Baghdad surged to its highest temperature ever recorded Tuesday.

Tuesday’s preliminary high of 125.2 degrees (51.8 Celsius) in Iraq’s capital city shatters its previous record of 123.8 degrees set on July 30, 2015, for any day of the year.

On Wednesday, Baghdad followed up with a temperature of 124 degrees, its second-highest temperature on record. On Monday, it had reached 123 degrees.

The crippling heat forced many residents indoors, and street sellers had to seek whatever shade they could find. With the state electricity grid failing, many households were relying on generators to power fridges, fans or air-conditioning units, the machines adding a guttural hum to the city’s already-noisy streets.

Two protesters were shot dead by security forces Monday during demonstrations over a lack of electricity and basic services amid the heat wave.

In nearby Lebanon, where a nationwide electricity crisis has left much of the country with less than three hours of state-provided power per day, the cost of a generator had doubled, leaving many households to go without.

[O]n Wednesday, Damascus, Syria’s capital city, tied its hottest temperature on record, hitting 114.8 degrees (46 Celsius).

More near-record temperatures in the 120s are likely Thursday in and around Baghdad before a slight moderation Friday. Highs to round out the week into the weekend should fall back into the upper 110s.

Hundreds of Toxic Superfund Sites Imperiled by Sea-Level Rise

Hundreds of Toxic Superfund Sites Imperiled by Sea-Level Rise

SOURCE: Inside Climate News and Union of Concerned Scientists

DATE: July 28, 2020

SNIP: A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists concludes that more than 800 hazardous Superfund sites near the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at risk of flooding in the next 20 years, even with low rates of sea level rise.

More than 1,000 of the sites, overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, will be at risk for flooding by 2100 if carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory, triggering high rates of sea level rise, according to the study, which faults the Trump administration for ignoring climate change.

Superfund sites, the toxic legacy of industry’s environmental indifference, are the worst of the worst hazardous waste sites that expose millions of people—many in neighborhoods of color and of lower economic status—to hundreds of deadly chemicals. Flooding can increase the chances that these toxins will contaminate nearby land and water, putting communities at risk of adverse health effects.

The study, “A Toxic Relationship: Extreme Coastal Flooding and Superfund Sites,” was written by Jacob Carter, a research scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists who began the analysis while working at the EPA. He was forced out of the agency in 2017 when the Trump administration signaled it would no longer prioritize climate change-focused research.

Carter started his review in response to a 2015 directive by President Barack Obama aimed at understanding how climate change was exacerbating flooding risks. The Trump Administration revoked the directive in 2017. Carter said that’s when he was essentially shown the door.

The UCS study identified flooding at a Superfund site on the San Jacinto River near Houston as a case in point for the vulnerability of Superfund sites to storms intensified by climate change. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey ripped open the containment caps put over the toxic waste that had been dumped alongside the river by a paper mill in the 1960s. The toxins leaked into the river that runs through residential sections of the city.

Using modeling, Carter projected sea level rise scenarios out to 2100, based on an expected range of sea level rise of approximately 1 to 6.5 feet. The high sea-level rise scenario puts in jeopardy more than 1,000 Superfund sites within 10 miles of either the East or Gulf Coasts. Florida, New Jersey and New York are especially vulnerable because of the large number of sites situated along their coastlines, according to the study.

No matter the expense or the politics, these sites have to be examined for flooding vulnerabilities, said Bill Muno, a former EPA director of superfund for the Great Lakes Region.

Yet Muno said he doubts that will happen, because of the enormous cost associated with reinforcing the sites and the current atmosphere of climate denial fostered by the Trump Administration.

The report also calculates the devastating human toll associated with flooded Superfund sites.

Flooding can increase the chances that dangerous chemicals can be released and contaminate nearby land and water, putting communities at risk of adverse health effects. Especially hard hit could be more than 17 million people of color and low-income who live within five miles of a Superfund site facing flooding risk, according to the report.

Migratory river fish populations plunge 76% in past 50 years

Migratory river fish populations plunge 76% in past 50 years

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: July 27, 2020

SNIP: Populations of migratory river fish around the world have plunged by a “catastrophic” 76% since 1970, an analysis has found.

The fall was even greater in Europe at 93%, and for some groups of fish, with sturgeon and eel populations both down by more than 90%.

Species such as salmon, trout and giant catfish are vital not just to the rivers and lakes in which they breed or feed but to entire ecosystems. By swimming upstream, they transport nutrients from the oceans and provide food for many land animals, including bears, wolves and birds of prey.

The migratory fish are also critical for the food security and livelihoods of millions of people around the world, while recreational fishing is worth billions of dollars a year. The causes of the decline are the hundreds of thousands of dams around the world, overfishing, the climate crisis and water pollution.

The scientists said the situation may be even bleaker than it seemed, as many declines began before 1970. Populations of sturgeon in the Great Lakes of North America, for example, have dropped by 95% from historic levels. Furthermore, suitable data has not been gathered on species in some of the world’s most biodiverse rivers such as the Mekong, Congo, Amazon and Yangtze, where researchers fear there will be hundreds of fish extinctions in the coming decades.

The average fall in populations was 84% in Latin America, while there has been a 59% decrease in Asia-Oceania, although there is limited data there and not enough from Africa to determine any reliable trend. In North America, the fall was less dramatic, at 28%. This is probably because large declines occurred before 1970, but also as a result of a growing number of dams being removed.

“For migratory fish, there’s nothing worse than a dam,” said Zeb Hogan, at the University of Nevada and an author of the new report. He said the good news was that fish could return quickly: “Almost without exception, where dams have been removed, you see populations bounce back, often much more quickly than anyone anticipated.”

The decline in migratory fish populations is higher than that for land and ocean animals, whose populations have fallen by an average of 60% in the last 50 years. “Freshwaters are disproportionately at risk to human pressures, since they are affected by everything happening in the surrounding catchment,” said Jackson.

Previous research by Hogan found many giant river fish are on the verge of extinction, with populations from catfish to stingrays down by 97% since 1970. Other studies have shown only a third of world’s great rivers remain free-flowing, while in Britain, for example, 97% of the river network has been interrupted by human-built structures.

Latest climate study predicts disaster for oceans, coastlines and life as we know it

Latest climate study predicts disaster for oceans, coastlines and life as we know it


DATE: July 25, 2020

SNIP: A disturbing new climate change study predicts global temperature increases of up to 8 degrees Fahrenheit as atmospheric carbon concentrations double:

[I]t now appears extremely unlikely that the climate sensitivity could be low enough to avoid substantial climate change (well in excess of 2°C warming) under a high‐emissions future scenario. We remain unable to rule out that the sensitivity could be above 4.5°C per doubling of carbon dioxide levels, although this is not likely.

Humanity, it’s clear, is close to missing the chance to avoid the worst ravages of fossil fuel pollution.

That level of warming would spell disaster for our oceans and coastal communities. Coral reefs would die; marine biodiversity would plummet. Flooding and extreme storms would pummel coastal residents. And ocean acidification and hypoxia would change the basic building blocks of marine life in dangerous, unpredictable ways.

This study is just the latest alarm going off to demand climate action now. We can’t wait any longer to stop drilling and mining for fossil fuels in our public lands and waters. Such public-lands extraction causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution.

The new four-year study, published in the journal Review of Geophysics by an international team of 25 top experts, indicates average global temperatures are now very likely to increase 4.1 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s at the high end of the range consistently predicted by major climate studies going back to 1979.

The study indicates a 95 percent certainty that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations – which we’re on target to hit in the next 50 years or so – would exceed the 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees celsius) worst-case goal that most nations agreed to in the Paris climate accord.

Beyond that threshold, climate scientists predict sea-level rise that will flood many coastal cities, intolerable heat waves and other extreme weather conditions and permanent damage to many ecosystems.

Gold vs. Salmon: An Alaska Mine Project Just Got a Boost

Gold vs. Salmon: An Alaska Mine Project Just Got a Boost

SOURCE: New York Times

DATE: July 24, 2020

SNIP: From the air it looks like just another tract of Alaska’s endless, roadless tundra, pockmarked with lakes and ponds, with a scattering of some of the state’s craggy mountains.

But this swath of land, home to foraging bears and spawning salmon about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, has been a battleground for years.

From the air it looks like just another tract of Alaska’s endless, roadless tundra, pockmarked with lakes and ponds, with a scattering of some of the state’s craggy mountains.

But this swath of land, home to foraging bears and spawning salmon about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, has been a battleground for years.

[O]pposition [to the Pebble Mine] has long been widespread, both in the region and statewide, with concerns about environmental damage and the potential for harming another critical resource: salmon. The fish is the main traditional subsistence food for many of the Native Alaskans in the region and the basis of both a thriving sport-fishing industry and, in nearby Bristol Bay, one of the largest commercial wild salmon fisheries in the world.

The mine will be located in two watersheds that feed fish-spawning rivers. Opponents say tailings left from the mining operation pose risks if heavy metals or other contaminants from them leach into groundwater or if dams holding back the tailings fail in an earthquake.

The deposit was discovered in the late 1980s, and planning for a mine began in earnest about 15 years ago. It drew opposition from leaders in both parties from the start, as battle lines between mining and fishing were established. But the project was aided by the pro-mining stance of the governor at the time, Sarah Palin.

Under President Barack Obama, the project was blocked in 2014 by the Environmental Protection Agency, largely over concerns about the risks to salmon.

But the Pebble Mine gained new momentum under President Trump’s more industry-friendly policies. While at first continuing its criticism of the project, the Environmental Protection Agency eventually reversed the Obama-era decision blocking it.

On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a final environmental impact statement, or E.I.S., for the project. Under normal operations, the Corps wrote, the project would not result in “long-term changes in the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”

In addition to the open-pit mine, the plan would include large dammed ponds for the tailings, some of them toxic, that result from mining and concentrating the metals, 80 miles of road and pipeline to carry the concentrate to a new port on Cook Inlet, and a 165-mile natural gas pipeline for a generating plant to power the operation.

In an interview this week, Mr. Collier described the release of the final impact statement as “the most significant day in the 15-odd-year history of the Pebble project.”

Alaska is the most seismically active state in the nation, and critics said the Corps of Engineers had not taken sufficient account of the risk of earthquakes or volcanic activity, and that its analysis of the dam designs was inadequate. Some of the dams would be hundreds of feet high.

Tailing dam failures can unleash a sudden flood of contaminated slurry with disastrous effects. A 2019 failure at an iron mine in Brazil, for example, killed more than 250 people. Given the Pebble Mine’s remote location, the risk to people might be low, but the heavy metals and other contaminants could make nearby rivers toxic to fish.

In a month or perhaps longer, the Corps will make a final decision on whether to allow the project to proceed. Approval is expected.

The project will require more permits, mostly from the state, which could take three years to obtain. And should President Trump lose re-election, a Democratic administration could move to block the project once again.

The Great Climate Migration

The Great Climate Migration

SOURCE: New York Times

DATE: July 23, 2020

SNIP: For most of human history, people have lived within a surprisingly narrow range of temperatures, in the places where the climate supported abundant food production. But as the planet warms, that band is suddenly shifting north. According to a pathbreaking recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the planet could see a greater temperature increase in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6,000 years combined. By 2070, the kind of extremely hot zones, like in the Sahara, that now cover less than 1 percent of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land, potentially placing one of every three people alive outside the climate niche where humans have thrived for thousands of years. Many will dig in, suffering through heat, hunger and political chaos, but others will be forced to move on. A 2017 study in Science Advances found that by 2100, temperatures could rise to the point that just going outside for a few hours in some places, including parts of India and Eastern China, “will result in death even for the fittest of humans.”

People are already beginning to flee. In Southeast Asia, where increasingly unpredictable monsoon rainfall and drought have made farming more difficult, the World Bank points to more than eight million people who have moved toward the Middle East, Europe and North America. In the African Sahel, millions of rural people have been streaming toward the coasts and the cities amid drought and widespread crop failures. Should the flight away from hot climates reach the scale that current research suggests is likely, it will amount to a vast remapping of the world’s populations.

The best outcome requires not only good will and the careful management of turbulent political forces; without preparation and planning, the sweeping scale of change could prove wildly destabilizing. The United Nations and others warn that in the worst case, the governments of the nations most affected by climate change could topple as whole regions devolve into war.

The stark policy choices are already becoming apparent. As refugees stream out of the Middle East and North Africa into Europe and from Central America into the United States, an anti-immigrant backlash has propelled nationalist governments into power around the world. The alternative, driven by a better understanding of how and when people will move, is governments that are actively preparing, both materially and politically, for the greater changes to come.

In recent months, the coronavirus pandemic has offered a test run on whether humanity has the capacity to avert a predictable — and predicted — catastrophe. Some countries have fared better. But the United States has failed. The climate crisis will test the developed world again, on a larger scale, with higher stakes. The only way to mitigate the most destabilizing aspects of mass migration is to prepare for it, and preparation demands a sharper imagining of where people are likely to go, and when.

As they have looked more closely, migration researchers have found climate’s subtle fingerprints almost everywhere. Drought helped push many Syrians into cities before the war, worsening tensions and leading to rising discontent; crop losses led to unemployment that stoked Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Libya; Brexit, even, was arguably a ripple effect of the influx of migrants brought to Europe by the wars that followed. And all those effects were bound up with the movement of just two million people. As the mechanisms of climate migration have come into sharper focus — food scarcity, water scarcity and heat — the latent potential for large-scale movement comes to seem astronomically larger.

If it is not drought and crop failures that force large numbers of people to flee, it will be the rising seas. We are now learning that climate scientists have been underestimating the future displacement from rising tides by a factor of three, with the likely toll being some 150 million globally.

Through all the research, rough predictions have emerged about the scale of total global climate migration — they range from 50 million to 300 million people displaced — but the global data is limited, and uncertainty remained about how to apply patterns of behavior to specific people in specific places. Now, though, new research on both fronts has created an opportunity to improve the models tremendously. A few years ago, climate geographers from Columbia University and the City University of New York began working with the World Bank to build a next-generation tool to establish plausible migration scenarios for the future.

The bank’s work targeted climate hot spots in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, focusing not on the emergency displacement of people from natural disasters but on their premeditated responses to what researchers call “slow-onset” shifts in the environment. They determined that as climate change progressed in just these three regions alone, as many as 143 million people would be displaced within their own borders, moving mostly from rural areas to nearby towns and cities.

For all the ways in which human migration is hard to predict, one trend is clear: Around the world, as people run short of food and abandon farms, they gravitate toward cities, which quickly grow overcrowded. It’s in these cities, where waves of new people stretch infrastructure, resources and services to their limits, that migration researchers warn that the most severe strains on society will unfold. Food has to be imported — stretching reliance on already-struggling farms and increasing its cost. People will congregate in slums, with little water or electricity, where they are more vulnerable to flooding or other disasters. The slums fuel extremism and chaos.

The window for action is closing. The world can now expect that with every degree of temperature increase, roughly a billion people will be pushed outside the zone in which humans have lived for thousands of years.

Russia’s Permafrost Is Melting and Its Farmers Are Cashing In

Russia’s Permafrost Is Melting and Its Farmers Are Cashing In

SOURCE: Bloomberg

DATE: July 23, 2020

SNIP: Just below the Arctic tundra, in the vast plains that blanket much of northern Russia, a once-unthinkable business is taking hold: soybean farming.

It’s the result of years of rising global temperatures, which are thawing the permafrost and turning the land into fertile soil, and now Agronomist Gennady Bochkovsky is helping to take the crop to the next frontier, testing whether the beans can handle the upper areas of the Moscow region. So far, he says, the results are promising.

Soybeans in Russia embody a trend that’s sweeping the globe: warming weather is pushing crops further toward the poles than they’ve ever grown before. In the U.S., North Dakota has transformed into a major corn grower, and the U.K. has seen a rapid expansion in wine grapes.

While Russian soybean farmers are seeing some benefits from warming weather, climate change has been wreaking havoc on global food production. Drought has hampered crop output this year in parts of Uruguay, New Zealand, Europe and Vietnam. Even Russia and the rest of the Black Sea region has seen the ill-effects of changing weather patterns in recent years, with drier conditions threatening the region’s wheat crop. The United Nations has said that climate change is one of the factors that’s exacerbated food insecurity.

In Russia, farmers have embraced the opportunity to grow profitable soybeans. The oilseed is processed into animal feed, and demand has been strong amid a boom for livestock production. In fact, the nation still relies on imports of about 1 million metric tons of soy, so there’s more scope for domestic harvests to keep rising.

Soybeans were planted on 1.1 million hectares in 2019 in central Russia, an 18-fold increase over the past decade and equal to about 7% of the total cropland in that part of the country. The government hasn’t yet released data for the latest acreage after plantings ended last month.

Yields have doubled over the past decade while output almost quadrupled, Russian government data show. That’s also been helped by better seeds coming to market.

Still, there are tricks to getting the soy to do well in new areas.

The plants shouldn’t be in the shadow from hills or trees so they get as much sun as possible, said Bochkovsky, the Moscow region agronomist. And it’s necessary to level out the fields, or the harvesters will pass over some beans, which can hang as low as 4 centimeters from the ground.

Zelentsov, of the research institute, is hopeful that the soy expansion can continue, and he’s ready to tackle even more unthinkable conditions. His institute has collaborated with Siberian researchers to develop a variety that can grow even if there’s permafrost 2 meters (6.6 feet) underneath the topsoil.

[Ed Note: What the article doesn’t say, of course, is that soybean farming and livestock production in this region is destroying the land and with it, wildlife habitat, just as industrial agriculture has destroyed American prairies and Amazon rainforest.]