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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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By shin0bi272 on 6/12/2010 3:29:31 AM , Rating: 2
I would like to point out that the maize you eat (either on or off the cob) this summer is a genetically engineered product that started out as a grass about ankle high or so and was bred to be the food we eat today through hundreds of years of cultivation. There is also another newer version that students at the university of nebraska are working on to make a more disease resistant version of the stuff because once one stalk goes bad to fungus or rust or beetles there's a good possibility that that entire acre will get infected in a matter of days. So please dont ignore the fact that science has always played a role in food production and pass it off as a "mixed blessing".

One other thing, Organic is BS. A study out of England back in 08 said that they studied the "organic" vs regular food for 50 years and they concluded that organic is nothing more than a label when it comes to the health benefits. In other words its hogwash! Youre paying more money for something that essentially is no better or worse for you than the standard stuff we all bought for years. Taste might be different depending on the type of organic and the type of food youre talking about but for the nutritional value there is no difference. Sorry to burst your bubble bub.


By Cheesew1z69 on 6/12/2010 6:07:28 PM , Rating: 2
I don't believe it's the nutritional value that makes organic

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/nu00...


By chemist1 on 6/14/2010 4:48:44 AM , Rating: 2
That British article wasn't a study, it was a review article -- a summary of other published work. It focused principally on vitamin and mineral content, and came to conclusions consistent with that of another large review [Zhao X, et al. (2006), HortTechnology, Vol. 16, No. 3 pp. 449-456, http://horttech.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/a...] -- that the vitamin and mineral content of organic and conventionally grown produce is similar. HOWEVER, Zhao also reviewed, in detail, numerous studies assessing phytochemical content (the British study did as well but not, it seemed, as thoroughly). Zhao found that, while more work needs to be done, "the evidence overall seems in favor of enhancement of phytochemical content in organically grown produce." And it's the phytochemicals (e.g., flavinoids) that are thought to provide much of the health-enhancing benefits of fruits and vegetables. Here's more on this from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_farming):

"The FiBL Institute has been investigating the differences at over 200 farms. It states that "organic products stand out as having higher levels of secondary plant compounds and vitamin C. In the case of milk and meat, the fatty acid profile is often better from a nutritional point of view. As far as carbohydrates and minerals, organic products are no different from conventional products. However, in regard to undesirables such as nitrate and pesticide residues, organic products have a clear advantage. A £12m EU-funded investigation into the difference between organic and ordinary farming published in 2007 found that organic foods have more nutritional value.[43] A recent study found that organically grown produce has double the flavonoids, an important antioxidant.[44]. A 2007 study found that organically grown kiwifruit had more antioxidants than conventional kiwifruit.[45]"

In addition, organic produce may be chemically safer. Some chemical fertilizers are made from industrial waste, and thus contain high levels of cadmium. And, of course, there's the issue of pesticides.


By clovell on 6/14/2010 10:52:36 AM , Rating: 2
The corn you're talking about was cross-bred over a couple centuries? That doesn't sound like anything I'd have a problem with. I'm not ignoring that science is doing a lot of good in agriculture - but it kinda seems like you just ignored my point about biodiversity.

I can buy a Conventional Bell Pepper, and after 10 days in my fridge, I have to toss it. If I buy an Organic one, it can go three weeks. Organic Zucchini cooks up better on the grill. I like having the option - Onions? I go conventional. Garlic? I'm not made of money. But, there is a difference, in terms of taste and water content. Sometimes its negligible, sometimes it's not - but it's always a matter of taste. So, you have a point, but I never really said that Organic was healthier for you. It does rely less on petrochemicals. It does generally promote biodiversity more than conventional crops, which, usually helps in conventional cross-breeding.

So, I'm not really arguing with you here, but just leaning on the other side of the same fence. No bubble burst; no apologies necessary.


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