Issue

Environment and Climate Change

Earth's average temperature has risen approximately one degree Fahrenheit in the last 50 years. By the end of this century, it will be several degrees higher, according to the latest climate research.

But global warming is doing more than simply making things a little warmer. It's changing rainfall, causing heat waves, and making sea level rise, all of which create human suffering.

Environment and Climate Change brings together reporting from Pulitzer Center grantees on the abilities of communities in diverse regions to bounce back and adapt to the impacts of climate change: One highlight includes in-depth reporting by Nathaniel Rich on the response to global warming during the 1979-1989 decade—an article that takes up the entire issue of The New York Times Magazine. Our journalists investigate climate change in the Arctic—the effects on indigenous communities, the destruction of the fragile natural environment, and the conflict between humans and polar bears. One interactive, award-winning multimedia project, "Sea Change," looks at ocean acidification, its impact on fishing, people's livelihoods, and food security. The documentary "Easy Like Water" features a solar-powered school boat in Bangladesh, where flooding may create 20 million "climate refugees" by mid-century.

Other stories covered here range from the future of the residents of Kiribati, a low-lying island nation in the Pacific, to the biological diversity of the rainforest in Peru, and the psychological effects of climate change on the inhabitants of Australia and Fiji. How does the melting Arctic ice cap affect our lives? How do overfishing and exploitation of mineral resources beneath the ocean’s surface jeopardize food sources need to sustain the planet’s ever-expanding population?

As part of the Pulitzer Center's long-term support for climate change reporting, the Rainforest Journalism Fund was established to provide capacity for local journalists operating in the rainforest regions of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, as well as international journalists reporting from those regions. The Fund represents a major investment in global environmental and climate reporting, with plans to support nearly 200 original reporting projects along with annual regional conferences designed to raise the level of reporting on global rainforest issues such as deforestation and climate change.

 

Environment and Climate Change

Disappearing Water

Sandwiched unforgivingly between the Tengger desert and the Badain Jaran desert, surface water has long since dried up in the dry and ravaged Minqin Oasis in Gansu Province. In the past two decades, the area has become a national symbol for China's fight against disappearing water as underground water levels have dropped by 15 meters over the past 50 years and approximately 50 percent of the area has turned into desert. Misuse of the remaining water is having worrying consequences for the region, threatening the survival of the people who call this land home.

Environmental Refugees

Located in the heart of China's poorest province, Ningxia, the town is surrounded on all sides by arid and unproductive land, however for 200,000 'environmental refugees' this harsh place is now home.

The Black Disaster

The Inner Mongolian grasslands in northern China were once a place of traditional, nomadic life where groups of farmers were free to roam the vast expanses of grassland. This type of life rapidly disappeared in the 1980's when new regulations forced the settling of nomadic farmers into fixed, allocated farms. As farmers have been forced to graze their cattle on the same pieces of land, severe degradation of the grasslands has started to appear as overgrazing becomes a severe problem.

Abandoned Cities

It is estimated that nearly 40 cities have been abandoned as a result of desertification in Northwest China in the past 2000 years. The old city of Yinpan, in China's western Xinjiang province, is one of those cities. Lying on the fringes of China's most formidable desert, the Taklamakan, its location is one of the harshest and most remote in all of China. Approximately 2000 years ago, the city of Yinpan was a successful, thriving and eclectic city, however the people's inability to adapt to disappearing water was one of the main reasons that led to the fall of this city.

Yellow Skies

Sandstorms are one of the most visually distinct phenomena associated with the problem of desertification. As the spring winds blow, dry and degraded topsoil is picked up and thrown into the air to be carried in immense clouds of sand and dust. They originate in the northern-central and western desert regions of the country. Moving east, the sandstorms regularly descend upon China's capital Beijing.

Gallagher's Photos Featured on China Dialogue

Desertification is the gradual transformation of arable and habitable land into desert, normally caused by climate change or the destructive use of land. Each year, desertification and drought account for US$42 billion loss in food productivity worldwide.

It is estimated that nearly 20% of China's land area, some 1.74 million square kilometres, is now classified as desert. Affecting the lives of an estimated 400 million people, it is one of the most important environmental issues in China today.