Staunton, July 27 – Forty years ago, Central Asian countries experienced only two or three 35 to 40 degree centigrade days each summer; now, they suffer from 15 to 20; and the World Bank projects that Turkmenistan alone will see its average temperature rise by more than five degrees centigrade by the end of this century.
Unless something is done, the heating up of the region as a result of climate change will have far greater and more negative consequences for the region than any other factor, Roman Vakulchuk, a specialist on the region at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (cabar.asia/ru/izmenenie-klimata-v-tsentralnoj-azii-tochka-nevozvrata-projdena).
This trend is leading to land degradation, water shortages, power shortages, rapid desertification, the collapse of infrastructure, and increased rates of some diseases, all of which threaten the societies of the region. But unfortunately, Vukalchuk says, these problems are receiving almost no attention from the scholarly community or the governments involved.
Over the last 30 years, not a single panel at any of the 1305 academic conferences devoted to Central Asia discussed climate problems, and only 33 articles about of a total of 13,488 articles in scholarly journals on Central Asia did so. Moreover, until recently, the governments in the region ignored the problems or assumed that they were not that serious.
Recently, there has been some recognition by the governments that the problems are serious and even that they require a regional rather than a country-by-country approach, but so far the academic communities in the region and abroad have generally failed to keep up or contribute to a resolution of the problems.
If that continues, the future of Central Asia may be bleak not because of Islamist radicalism or terrorism or demography but because of climate change – and it is rapidly approaching the point, Vakulchuk says, where no one will be in a position to prevent a general disaster.