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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 Suntan on 6/14/2010 12:17:52 PM , Rating: 2
Call me crazy, but I just think that eating is an intimate activity - that there's a right way and a wrong way to raise and slaughter animals - that there's a certain level of respect that everyone should have for their food that gets lost in the shuffle of modern agriculture.

If you think eating is an “intimate” activity, then you’re either doing nasty things with that ear of corn, or else you don’t have your head on straight.

And if it is always the humans that are so barbaric and lacking such respect for the world around them, so out of touch with mother nature and the overall ecosystem, please point out a single species on the planet that has any respect for the food they eat...

Most hunter species elect to crush their prey’s windpipe and slowly suffocate them to death over the span of a few minutes while standing on top of their dying corpses... Does that sound very respectful? Not to mention, have you never seen a documentary where the hunter animal has any qualms about killing and proceeding to eat the offspring of a prey animal while it the meal’s mother stands helplessly out of range watching? Very respectful...

Anyone ever heard about specialization? It is what allowed our ancestors to progress on from crouching in caves and covering themselves in the stinky hides of the animals they just ate. For a refresher, it is basically the notion that the people who know how to do a certain activity the most effectively concentrate on that activity and provide the output for the rest of the society.

Trying to grow all your own food in your back yard or close to your house if you live in an area that does not support it (whether you live in a location where the soil does not support it, or a heavily urbanized area that makes it impractical) is silly and counter to the notion that even early humans knew as folly. The fact that people are able to do it and still survive just points out how comfortable we are as a race, that you can grow your food in a way that makes you happy even though it is inefficient and a waste of land that could be used for more efficiently for other things.

It’s one thing to decide to treat animals humanly before they get slaughtered, it is another thing altogether to think that our food sources should be given “respect” by dialing back the progress we have made by thousands of years.


By clovell on 6/14/2010 2:42:47 PM , Rating: 2
> If you think eating is an “intimate” activity, then you’re either doing nasty things with that ear of corn, or else you don’t have your head on straight.

Suntan, I generally agree with you on a lot of things. Eating involves putting something in your mouth and having it pass through and be absorbed into your body as part of yourself. Idk if it would help you to read my other posts in the thread, but it seems like what I mean when I say "respect" and what you think I mean when I say "respect" are two different things.

There's a lot of people that no longer understand that a chicken has to die for you to have KFC; that a pig is butchered to make bacon for your chesseburger. As a hunter & a fisher, I don't get emotional with every kill or catch. But, I do realize that an animal died for my sustenance, and I give it "respect" - in the midst of gutting, cleaning, breaking it down, and finally cooking and eating it.

It's not something I'm good at explaining, I guess, but at the end of the day, growing something yourself (certainly not everything), or fishing, or hunting (for food, rather than just sport), brings you to a place where that "respect" is more easily understood.

I can't promise that clears it up, but past that I think we're just going to disagree.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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