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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
scientists agree that "glaciers are melting at an accelerated
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."
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
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.
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.
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
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,
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