Monday, January 26, 2009

Shrinking Tibetan Glaciers Threaten Water Shortages for 2 Billion in Asia

As the earth continues to warm, Tibetan glaciers holding vast reserves of fresh water are melting away into the sea, threatening water shortages for roughly two billion in Asia:
Roughly 2 billion Asians will experience water shortages in the coming decades as global warming diminishes glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau, scientists warned on Friday.

The plateau has more than 45,000 glaciers that accumulate during the region’s snowy season, before they drain into Asia’s main rivers, which include the Yellow, Yangtze, Brahmanputra and Mekong. Some scientists refer to the plateau as the "Third Pole" due to its massive glacial ice sheets.

However, temperatures on the plateau are rising at twice the rate of other parts of the world, according Lonnie Thompson, an Ohio State University glaciologist who for decades has gathered ice cores from glaciers around the world.

As these higher temperatures cause the glaciers to melt at faster rates, Asians have developed a false sense of security about the area’s water supplies, he said.

Should the melting continue at current levels, two-thirds of the plateau's glaciers will likely disappear by 2050, he said during a meeting on climate change at the Asia Society in Manhattan.

However, those who depend on the water will begin to see dwindling supplies long before then, he said.

"The scary thing is that a lot of structures, cities and lifestyles that have been developed in the region over the last 100 years were based on an abundance of water," Thompson said.

Nearly 2 billion people in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan would experience water shortages as the rivers slow, said Geoff Dabelko, director of the environment and security program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, during an interview with Reuters.
Red Orbit.

Argentina Facing Record Drought Conditions

Argentina's current plight -- drought conditions potentially causing a 40% reduction in crop output -- may present a prophetic image of the ramifications of unchecked climate change:
Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez on Monday declared an agricultural emergency in areas affected by the worst drought to hit the country in four decades.
The state of emergency will allow farmers in affected areas to defer some tax payments for one year, Fernandez said.

Argentina, a leading world producer of soy, corn, wheat and beef, is suffering from dry conditions in much of its agricultural belt. Crop estimates are being cut as cattle die of thirst.

"In the face of this hard, painful reality, the government is extending its hand to these farmers," Cabinet Chief Sergio Massa told reporters after Fernandez announced the state of emergency.

Farmers, locked in political battle with the government over what they call high export taxes, say they want better long-term emergency planning rather than the subsidies and other short-term benefits offered by Fernandez.

The corn planting season is just ending, but output in the current crop cycle could fall up to 40 percent from the last harvest, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange has forecast.

Our Big Screen TVs Mean More Big Dead Zones

Increased global warming is projected to create larger "dead zones" in the world's oceans -- "low-oxygen areas in the ocean where sea life including fish, crabs and clams cannot survive." LAT.