A Vicious Cycle

One of global warming’s most immediate and devastating effects comes from the melting glaciers. From Bhutan to Peru, glacier melt is accelerating. As the Melting Andean Glaciers Could Leave 30 Million High and Dry puts it:

Loss of glaciers in the Andes mountain range is threatening the water supply of 30 million people, and scientists say the lower altitude glaciers could disappear in 10 years.


What’s happening to those most closely tied to the glaciers?

His community can no longer can seed indigenous potatoes in fields located at lower levels, because sufficient water does not flow there any longer. “We must seed them to greater height. But every year that happens, also we have less earth in mountains, Felipe says. “In few years more, no longer we will have no place to seed these potatoes.”

Maybe they should move to the cities? But wait:

Large cities in the region depend on glacial runoffs for their water supply. Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, draws 50 percent of its water supply from the glacial basin, and Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, draws 30 percent of its water supply.

So you’re away from home and thirsty but at least you have cheap clean power, right? Don’t hold your breath.

Power supplies also will be affected as most countries in the Andes are dependent on hydroelectric power generation. Peru gets 81 percent of its electricity from hydropower, Colombia generates 73 percent from hydropower, Ecuador is 72 percent hydro-dependent, and Bolivia, 50 percent.

No water, no home, no power: there must be a way to adapt you say?

In any case, Peru will have to invest in additional power capacity, most likely based on burning fossil fuels … resulting in higher cost to end-users and another cycle of increased carbon emissions.

The World Bank and Global Environment Facility are supporting the development of adaptation plans prepared with the assistance of a multidisciplinary group that includes expertise in glaciology, remote sensing, agriculture, water and power supply, and rural development.

They call it adaptation. We call it misery on the way to self destruction.

Guest Post By Ken Levenson

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9 Responses to A Vicious Cycle

  1. hapa says:

    or maybe they’d rather have the other problem.

  2. mauri pelto says:

    Nice Post. In the northern Andes these glaciers are quite small and the overall water supply likewise. Many other nations are much more dependent on glacier runoff than Bolivia is. In many areas the natural reservoir of a glacier can only be replaced by a man made reservoir to store the water that would otherwise be held by the glacier and released in the warm, dry season. This is not the case in the Andes, where without the glaciers the precipitation would to a larger extent simply evaporate, yielding no runoff. The threat is there now because unlike the Himalayas they have no large glaciers in the northern Andes that will survive even a warming for quite sometime. I have observed the loss of 10% of the glaciers I monitor in the North Cascades of Washington, but the largest glaciers all remain.

  3. Sam says:

    Great post– this is a particular example of an obvious climate change impact that needs the next sentence and level of understanding/education.

    Most people intuitively get that global warming will melt glaciers and the visual proof is obvious. But we need this next step of understanding…

  4. William Taylor says:

    Curious, why are you so oppsed to the gas tax holiday? It will help people even if it is only for three months or so. Don’t intend to argue with you, just curious.

  5. Joe says:

    Read my recent posts on this. Won’t help anyone but oil companies.

  6. William Taylor says:

    Thank you for your comment back

  7. steve shoap says:

    I have invented a new way to move water. It might help communities who are losing their local water supply. The invention also provides for a new way to fight wildfires.

    Please look at my website for details.

  8. GoingGreen says:

    What will be the state of the government and people of under developed countries, when there is a big shortage of power and water shortage, it will create a dent in the global society.