Glaciers Retreat at Record Rate Imperiling World Water Supplies

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

The world’s glaciers are losing mass at record rates according to the United Nations. Preliminary calculations just completed for 2006 show that the rate of glacial melting increased from the previous record rate in 2003. Glaciers have not retreated this rapidly since prehistoric time over 5000 years ago. Tourists are flocking to areas famous for their glaciers, to make sure they see them while they still exist, for example by taking patagonia tours; an area famous for its natural beauty. The destruction of glaciers will have a wide-reaching effect on the world’s eco-system.

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By FishOutofWater

Water supplies and agriculture, especially in China, India and Pakistan are threatened by the rapid loss of mountain glaciers. Water supplies in California and the western U.S. are diminishing as glaciers and winter snowpack decline.

Note: x-posted in Orange.

I have generally lurked here rather than post here because environmental writing doesn’t seem to be a primary focus here. However, many of my former readers are now here so I thought it might be a good time to make a first post here. Environmental matters aren’t discussed enough on the political blogs, in my opinion. The planet has been taken for granted by people for far too long. We can not escape the environmental consequences of our choices.

The glacial retreat story was covered extensively in the European press and virtually ignored in the U.S. One reason Americans are so ignorant is the lack of media coverage of environmental matters. Blogs also tend to have less discussion of the environment here. I hope this blog is interested in environmental discussions.


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By FishOutofWater

The thinning of glaciers has increased from a rate of 1 foot per year from 1980-1999 to a rate of 1.6 feet per year from 2000 through 2006. The rate of mass loss has never been higher in human history.

Melting mountain glaciers are not just proof of global warming, they are one of the most serious consequences. Mountain glaciers provide stable summer and fall water supplies to highly populated and highly productive agricultural regions in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Human induced global warming must be stopped to stop the glacial retreat.

Global warming is accelerating, spurred by accelerating emissions of CO2. Increasing rates of global warming are causing glacial mass loss to accelerate.

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By FishOutofWater

Achim Steiner, the under Secretary General of the U.N. explained:

Millions if not billions of people depend directly or indirectly on these natural water storage facilities for drinking water, agriculture, industry and power generation during key parts of the year.

There are many canaries emerging in the climate change coal mine. The glaciers are perhaps among those making the most noise and it is absolutely essential that everyone sits up and takes notice.

California, America’s most productive agricultural state depends on glaciers in the high Sierra and in the Rocky Mountains to supply rivers in the summer and fall. California’s water supplies are imperiled by the loss of mountain glaciers.

China depends on meltwaters from Tibetan glaciers to supply water for drinking and agriculture.

Sichuan province in south-western China relies on water from the Tibetan peninsula. At Kanding, several hundred kilometres away from Jiuzhaigou, there are valley glaciers which are seriously imperilled by rising temperatures. All across the Qinghai-Tibet highland that spans much of western China, global warming is speeding the retreat of glaciers, stoking evaporation of glacial and snow run-off, and leaving dwindling rivers that are dangerously clogged with silt, says Greenpeace in a report on climate change in the region.

Chinese government research shows that global warming is melting the plateau at 7 per cent annually. These glaciers account for 47 per cent of the total coverage in China. Water from the mountain region feeds the Yellow, Yangtze and other rivers that feed hundreds of millions of people across China and South Asia, said Li Yan of Greenpeace’s Beijing office.

Globally, billions of people depend on rivers that are supplied by water from glaciers but the number of people affected in south Asia alone is astounding – 2.4 billion.

360 million on the Ganges in India and 388 million on the Yangtze in China alone – will not be able to feed themselves, with devastating effect on already rising global food prices.

….glaciers are an important source for nine major rivers which run through land occupied by 2.4 billion people. In Pakistan, for example, 80 per cent of agricultural land is irrigated by the Indus, which the WWF last year highlighted as one of the world’s 10 big at-risk rivers because retreating glaciers provide 70-80 per cent of its flow.

Global warming must be stopped to stop further retreat of mountain glaciers. The loss of mountain glaciers will cause a catastrophic loss of water for drinking and agriculture in the world’s most populous regions.


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  1. The occupation of Tibet is, in part, a war over water.

  2. called The Planet. Go find it, watch it, and weep.

    It scared the living hell out of me, when it talked about how all of the major waterways of Asia — the Ganges, Yangtse, Mekong, Yellow, etc. etc. — all spring from glacial melt, and once those glaciars are gone, the water is gone too, and won’t be found in other places. Once the water is gone, the rice fields will dry up, and Billions of people will starve.

  3. than oil.

    We see the problem already in the western United States.  

    I wonder when Big Business will start monopolizing our water supplies.  It won’t be long.  There’s money to be made there.  

  4. Thank you for bringing this over here.

    I do hope you make this more than a one time ‘delurk’ essay. Maybe you could do a weekly essay on these issues. It might gain more traction if more people understood the “gravity” of reduced meltwater amounts in the near future, a future approaching at a much faster rate than previously predicted.

  5. Yes I will explain.

    I have to put this into the metaphysical “ain’t Karma a bitch” category.  You say these “developing” countries China, India and Pakistan will run out of water. Wonderful. In 1992, long before Big Al’s infamous global CO2 scam these very same countries were named “carbon” exempt.  Low and behold the entire western world flocked there to built factories and give them our technology so they could sell us contaminated dog food, toothpaste and children’s toys.  In addition to taking all of the manufacturing Intel has also build semiconductor wafer fabs there, so it’s not just “low tech” exported jobs.

    And while devastation may come to the people of Asia they are not the object of my anger.  The profit mongering asshole CEOs who arrainged the whole carbon trading scam are.

    While I have no doubt we are screwing up the enviornment all the other areas of possible solutions are now focused soley upon the establishment of a carbon trading scam run by the same pontificating shitheads, for their profits alone and at the expense of lowly peasants everywhere.

  6. I have not been too regular a reader these past few weeks and have missed a lot of good stuff. Needless to say, I have missed all my favorites and have been too busy to check out things like I used to. Thanks…

    • RUKind on March 17, 2008 at 23:36

    the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,, when stripped of all its religious, ethnic and economic trappings comes down to a fight over water supply.  That’s why Israel annexed the West Bank.

    Georgia is trying to redefine its surveyed boundary to a more accurate GPS plot line. That would put a bend of the Tennessee River and a quarter of Chattanooga in Georgia. Alabama and Florida are ready to go to “war” over their downstream water rights from Georgia. Having all the National Guards in Iraq may be keeping the conflict at a lower level. ;-(

    If the current trends continue, we’ll see water wars breaking out around the planet. Arable land wars, too.

    Here in coastal New England we had a protracted Striped Bass War quite a few years back. The stripers spawn in the Chesapeake and migrate up as far as Maine during the summer. Trawlers, in RI in particular, were decimating the breeding stock. A multi-state treaty increased the size limit over many years and now they’re everywhere. Basically what was protected was a seasonal river flow of protein. Same with the salmon in Alaska and the Northwest, another anadromous fish.

  7. we need enviro essays wether you get a large response or not…..

    many here feel this is the most important issue and that politics is a smoke screen……

  8. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one here at DD who goes for environmental issues. I’ll be glad to read posts like this any time you are so inclined!

    • RiaD on March 18, 2008 at 13:35

    thanks ever so much

    more, please

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