Climate Change and desertifiction

 

Photo credit: Wunderblog

A general view shows a palm field suffering from desertification on October 27, 2016 near Morocco’s southeastern oasis town of Erfoud, north of Er-Rissani in the Sahara Desert. The oasis of Tafilalet near Er-Rissane is at risk of disappearing as the area is drying up due to global warming. (FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)

Can We Turn Back the Deserts In an Age of Climate Change?

by Sami Grover

A recent study, published in the journal Science, suggests that the Mediterranean region will witness a degree of desertification not seen in recorded history thanks, in large part, to the impact of manmade climate change. Disturbingly, this projection applies even in a scenario in which the global community is able to keep global climate change within the window of 2°C — a goal which is by no means guaranteed. Forests will be pushed further up the mountains in the Middle East. The southern deserts of Morocco will be pushed further north and — if world leaders fail to get serious and emissions continue unchecked — then much of southern Spain could become desert too.

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Acacia trees are pictured in Senegal’s Louga region, part of the Great Green Wall (GGW), a lush 15km (10 mile) wide strip of different plant species, meant to span the 7,600km from Senegal to Djibouti to halt desertification. (SEYLLOU DIALLO/AFP/Getty Images) – https://dsx.weather.com//util/image/w/gettyimages-114987289.jpg?v=ap&w=980&h=551&api=7db9fe61-7414-47b5-9871-e17d87b8b6a0

So, what can be done?

The first place to start, of course, is to step up our transition to a low carbon economy. Indeed the localized threats of drought and desertification may be one of the reasons why Morocco has become a somewhat unexpected clean energy leader — pushing for 52% renewable electricity by 2030 and a short-term goal of adding 2 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2020 at the latest.

Unfortunately, with global carbon emissions only now (possibly) flatlining, it’s an absolute scientific certainty that we have many decades of warming already “baked in.”  Drought- and desertification-prone regions will need to start making plans for holding back the deserts and keeping landscapes green. Fortunately, there’s some precedent out there for doing just that.

Read the full article: Wunderblog

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.