Europe’s landscape is threatened as the climate crisis deepens and desertification sweeps the driest and hottest parts of Russia.
In the southern Republic of Kalmykia, sand has replaced the steppe.
Severe drought and overgrazing have combined to destroy the once fertile landscape.
The deepening climate crisis has only worsened as temperatures in parts of Russia double the global average.
“The problem of desertification is really big because the last few years have been very dry,” said Alexander Kladiev, an expert on desertification.
“There is an overgrazing by cattle that exceeds all norms, and most importantly, the pastures are not rejuvenated,” he says.
Kalmykia, a sparsely populated republic, has a modest population of around 300,000 in 76,100 square kilometers of territory.
However, rising temperatures and relentless winds have destroyed what was once productive farmland. Last year, the lack of rain and food resulted in a disaster when thousands of livestock were killed.
To support local farmers, the Kalmykia regional government has pledged € 7 million to prevent this disaster from happening again.
A local shepherd, Uljumdzhi Mukabenow, who was forced to watch his cattle suffer from lack of ration, said, “It was terrible to see the cattle. They were looking for grass, but there wasn’t any”.
While Russia has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, natural disasters continue to occur. The country has recently faced numerous disasters such as forest fires and floods due to climate change.
Last June was the second hottest in recorded history of Russia.
In a press conference with the state news agency TASS, Roman Vilfand, head of research at the Russian weather service Rosgidromet, said that large cities were badly affected by the rising temperatures. St. Petersburg saw the hottest June on record and Moscow saw the third warmest June.
If temperatures continue to rise as predicted, 2060 could prove too late for Kalmykia and many parts of the planet threatened by desertification.