Mongolia: Climate Change Affecting Nomadic Way of Life

Mongolian nomadic families have historically depended on the vast land for their livelihood. In the past, rangeland for their grazing animals had been plentiful, and food and water were readily collected from their surroundings. However, all is that is changing, as climate change is having a negative impact on their way of life.

Photo by Tonio94 and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Tonio94 and used under a Creative Commons license.

A recent article by Joshua Kucera in Eurasianet highlights some of these changes:

Global warming is having a harsh effect on Mongolia’s nomadic herders, who comprise about 40 percent of the country’s overall 3 million inhabitants. Since 1940, the mean air temperature in the country has increased 1.6 degrees Celsius. Heat waves are longer, and rain patterns have become “quite variable, decreasing at one site and increasing at a site nearby,” according to an assessment by the country’s Ministry of Nature and the Environment. The Gobi Desert, in the south of the country, is creeping northward.

The desertification of the Gobi Desert is reducing available land for their animals to graze, which are important sources of food. This population is also facing a freshwater crisis, as described by blogger Mandah, who writes about the the water issues facing these communities:

Mongolian high mountain peak’s snowcap and glaciers have been melting and thinning because of the Global Warming. The thickness of the snow melting will become 131 centimeters by 2039. According to the scientist, the whole world will start to face fresh water shortage by 2020 and 108 million people actually have to deal with the fresh water shortage by 2025. Since 1996, Mongolian groundwater level has been decreasing constantly. Some of the biggest lakes in Gobi region such as: Taatsiin tsagaan, Adgiin tsagaan, Ulaan, Orog lakes as well as many other rivers dried up.

Blogger and local botanist Ariungerel adds information about these changes:

Nowadays, the meaning of the phrase “water is treasure” is becoming clearer. Our country is situated far from nearest sea and has less water sources on the ground and underground compared with countries that has enough water sources. Our people range their life in line with water sources, for example: remote area can be utilized only in winter times because running water source is scarce there, only snow is available there. Elders said that they used to use mouthful water to wash their faces and hands, but in the contemporary world, we use many more litters of water for the same reason.

Many of these issues are not well-known within the country, much less around the world. However, a local project called Nomad Green has taken up the initiative to teach the use of citizen media tools like blogs, photogs, and videos to tell the story of this country and some of its environmental problems. The project started in 2009 as partnership between various organizations and institutions, and to date several workshops have taken place in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and other communities around Mongolia.

Photo of Nomad Green workshop by Portnoy (Working Man) and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo of Nomad Green workshop by Portnoy (Working Man) and used under a Creative Commons license.

The project has already demonstrated positive steps in teaching Mongolians how to use these tools to tell their stories about environmental challenges of their country. Part of this proof is that the two bloggers previously cited in this article, Mandah and Ariungerel are a part of the Nomad Green project, which only adds to number of voices concerned about the environmental future of Mongolia.


  • Bob V.M.

    Know that desertification near the Gobi Desert is not evidence of global warming, but rather China trying to develop Inner Mongolia and changing the landscape. The pollution every Spring in Beijing and Korea is mostly from Inner Mongolia, not the Gobi.

    Google “Chem Trails Mongolia”. It seems this is man-made activity going on in Mongolia is engineered with the sole purpose to change the weather.

    People like Al Gore are eugenicists, who believe that the earth has too many people, so 80-90% of the people on earth must be eliminated. One estimate is that Mongolia’s population must be reduced from 3 million to 1 million.

    East Anglican University researchers were exposed to be manipulating weather data to cover up the decrease in temperature over the last few years. Hackers have distributed their thousands of emails which reveal their manipulation of the data for the chief end of establishing a world government with carbon taxes instituted and a policy of eugenics (80-90% world population reduction). Research “ClimateGate”

  • Pippa Biggs

    Thanks Bob for the insight. I do not think it is a belief that the Earth has too many people – it is a fact.

    If we carry on at current rates of population growth, and growth in consumption, populations will decrease ANYWAY through famine, natural disasters, wars over the limited remaining resources and viruses (which evolve much faster in a larger population).

    No big conspiracy theories are required – these are ‘natural’ checks and balances that come into play when the demands of a population outstrip the supply of its natural environment (as described partly in this article).

    We know all of this from studies of animal populations – why do we believe that the human population is any different? The only thing we can say is that through technological advances, we are managing to postpone the inevitable, but not for much longer – look at the constant famines some parts of the world are now experiencing.

  • Thom

    “Since 1996, Mongolian groundwater level has been decreasing constantly”

    Mining also uses vast quantities of groundwater (rivers and underground water) which reduces the water table and which will in turn influence the quality of vegetation cover at the surface, very important for soil stabilisation. Post-process mining water returned to the ground will be heavily polluted, again affecting the quality of vegetation cover.

    Not just mining is implicated in over-abstraction of groundwaters either – food & beverage factories use huge amounts of water in their processes, often wastefully with a total disregard for environmental impact. How many new factories have been built in UB since 1996?

    Also what about the expansion of the cashmere processing industry in recent years?

    Industry brings jobs and Mongolia needs to modernise but there is a significant environmental cost involved and everyone should be aware of this.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.