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Wheat crops in India  (Source: NY Times)
Populations around the Himalayas at risk

recent study in the journal Science shows that the shrinkage of glaciers will cause a lack in water sources for crops, ultimately leading to food shortages for approximately 60 million people living near the Himalayas. This study is one of the first to observe the effect melting glaciers have on the Himalayan river basins, and could possibly further provoke the existing debate that climate change will destroy river basins located mostly in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, China and Bhutan.

Dutch scientists Marc Bierkens, Walter Immerzee and Ludovicus Van Beek – who conducted the study and wrote in the journal -- concluded that basins around the Himalayas such as the Indus, Ganges and Brahamaputra depend on the melting glaciers to water their crops, and could see a 19.6 percent decline in their water supply by 2050. 

"We estimate that the food security of 4.5 percent of the total population will be threatened as a result of reduced water availability," the researchers wrote. "The strong need for prioritizing adaptation options and further increasing water productivity is therefore eminent."

This new study largely contrasts the U.N. report in 2007, where the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that hundreds of millions of people were in danger from the receding glaciers. According to the scientists, the reason for the "discrepancy" is that only some basins in this area depend on the glaciers. Others, such as China's Yellow River basin, obtain their water from rainfall and are expected to see a 9.5 percent increase in water supply due to the changing climate altering the pattern of monsoons. 

"We show that it's only certain areas that will be affected," said Bierkens. "The amount of people affected is still large. Every person is one too many but it's much less than was first anticipated."

In addition, the U.N. report included other errors such as the Himalayas disappearing by 2035, when actual data indicates that this will happen by 2350. Client change skeptics attacked this inaccuracy, which in fact, was just a mistake in transposing the numbers. 

Most scientists agree that "glaciers are melting at an accelerated rate as temperatures increase," and that the reason is related to the higher "atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide." Evidence for this appears in the considerable losses seen in glaciers across the Andes, Alaska, the Alps and several other ranges. According to researchers in the United States and Europe, "more than 90 percent of glaciers worldwide are in retreat."

Researchers who did not take part in the study, such as Zhongqin Li, director of the Tianshan Glaciological Station in China, noted that the scientists performing the study disregarded many other basins in central Asia and northwest China which will be affected by the glacial losses. Other glacial experts and scientists warned that "uncertainties and lack of data for the region makes it difficult to say what will happen in the next few decades to the water supply." While many researchers are skeptical of exact numbers in the study, they do agree that there should be a concern for those living in the glacial-dependent basins due to climate change. In addition, problems like pollution, overpopulation and poverty are added stress to the situation.

"The paper teaches us that there's a lot of uncertainty in the future water supply of Asia and within the realm of plausibility are scenarios that may give us concern," said Casey Brown, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts. 

"At present, we know that water concerns are already a certainty - the large and growing populations and high dependence on irrigated agriculture which makes the region vulnerable to present climate variability. 

"This paper is additional motivation to address these present concerns through wise investments in better management of water resources in the region, which for me means forecasts, incentives, efficiency."

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RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By JediJeb on 6/11/2010 3:55:45 PM , Rating: 3
We also continue to question - why is it so important that all the wheat / sugarcane / corn grow to be the same length? Is the mechanical efficency gained at harvest really worth the amount of pesticides, genetically enhanced seeds, and synthetic fertilizers that are used to accomplish that?

Not so much mechanical efficiency but overall yield. We use things like Glyphosate resistant corn and soybeans so that we can spray over the crops to kill the weeds and grasses that will take nutrients away from the crop of interest. Otherwise we would have to hire thousands or even millions of more workers to use a hoe to remove those weeds which would greatly increase the cost of these crops.

I am in agreement though that people should learn to grow some of their own food when and if they can. Should the economy take a much more severe downturn than it has already it could be a very useful skill to have. Also it is useful during certain natural disasters that may hinder shipping of food. Just a good skill to know overall and lets people more appreciate the work that goes into providing food for the planet that our farmers do every day.

RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By Spuke on 6/11/10, Rating: 0
RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By JediJeb on 6/11/2010 6:26:46 PM , Rating: 2
I guess we will disagree on some topics though I have agreed with you on others. I just happen to think it is good to learn other things, even if you may not use them extensively in life. I already know farming since I grew up on a farm, but I became a chemist for my career. I have along the way learned to operate heavy equipment, blacksmithing, carpentry, cooking, computer programming, basic first aid, basic tailoring, leather working, automotive repair, and other things. If my vision will allow and I have the time and money I would also like to learn to fly and sail among other things.

Some people like me would like to be able to provide for ourselves in an emergency, at least until we can obtain the services of someone more skilled in the area of need. Growing up the people around me could not hire a professional every time something needed to be done, mostly because there were no professionals anywhere near by. I'm sure people who grew up in a large city were more able to depend on others with the skills needed to do specialized tasks, which is good. I do though tend to plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.

I respect your beliefs in reliance on a diverse society, I hope you can respect my beliefs in self reliance also.

RE: Locally grown produce, organic, anti-GMO, etc.
By Spuke on 6/11/10, Rating: -1
By JediJeb on 6/14/2010 10:56:57 AM , Rating: 2
I happen to think that everyone should do a mandatory two years in the military.

Though I was never able to serve because of health problems, my father did and I know from his experience that it can be something a person can benefit from. There are the dangers of course but the discipline one gains is very helpful in life. I can not say I have the discipline that my father and grandfather had, but their examples made a strong impression on my live for sure.

By ShaolinSoccer on 6/11/2010 11:51:16 PM , Rating: 1
JediJeb, what you've just wrote is probably one of the best things I have ever read. I wish more people were like you. Crime is getting worse where I live. People are losing morals more and more. I don't know what could solve the problem but if everyone was like you, the world would be a utopia!

By JediJeb on 6/14/2010 10:52:39 AM , Rating: 2
Utopia I think would be too much to ask for. Self reliance only makes the ups and downs easier, it doesn't necessarily fix the dark side of peoples mentality.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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