Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Melting of World's Glaciers Threatening Water, Food and Energy Supplies

Back at the birth of this blog in 2006, I posted about the prospect that the melting of glaciers caused by global warming will threaten the drinking and agricultural water supplies of tens of millions, if not billions, of people.

Over the past couple of months, we've been hearing more in the media about these types of predictions coming to fruition.

In August, Treehugger reported on the disappearance of South America's highest ski run, which, it so happens, is also in the range of glaciers that supply water to Bolivia's largest city:

The 18,000-year-old glacier in Bolivia that provided the world with its highest ski run has just finished completely drying up, thanks to our old pal climate change. And of course, it's taken the run with it. Now, thrill-seeking skiers will no longer be able to bomb down the slopes at 17,785 ft--but far worse, the glacier will no longer provide much needed water to the 2 million people that live around Bolivia's nearby capitol La Paz.

The glaciers not only provide drinking water to Bolivian residents, but are also used to create power through hydroelectric dams--glacial runoff gives the region 80% of its electricity.

Now, a report from Kashmir shows its main glacier is also melting at alarming speeds:

Indian Kashmir's biggest glacier, which feeds the region's main river, is melting faster than other Himalayas glaciers, threatening the water supply of tens of thousands of people, a new report warned on Monday.

Experts say rising temperatures are rapidly shrinking Himalayan glaciers, underscoring the effects of climate change that has caused temperatures in the mountainous region to rise by about 1.1 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years.

Of course, "threatening the water supply" also means threatening the food supply, and in the case of Bolivia, the energy supply.

Are we going to go from talk of Peak Oil to talk of Peak Fresh Water and Peak Food as quickly as these reports might indicate?

It is in the shadow of reports such as these that both the Copenhagen climate change solutions talks and passage of the Senate's Climate & Energy Solutions Bill loom ever so large.  The good news, as we here at Conservation Value Notes emphasize time and again, is that the bold solutions needed to reverse climate change are also the bold solutions needed to revitalize and re-power our economy with a clean tech revolution -- one whose benefits may be our best prospect for feeding saving civilization as we know it.

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