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Melting Mountain Glaciers Will Shrink Grain Harvests in China and India

Environment  (tags: climate, nature, water, melting glaciers, destruction, world, food )

- 4134 days ago -
The world is now facing a climate-driven shrinkage of river-based irrigation water supplies. Mountain glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau are melting and could soon deprive the major rivers of India and China of the ice melt needed


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Judy Cross (83)
Monday March 24, 2008, 12:47 pm
The Himalayan glaciers are all too high to be affected, even if the Global Warming Scam were true.
India has 9,575 glaciers, of which around 50 are being monitored by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) on a regular basis. None of these show a particularly high rate of retreat. Gangotri's drawdown - 20 metres per annum in the '70s - is now mere six metres a year.

Bhagirath Khadak in the Himalayas was retreating at 12 m annually but last year it didn't recede at all. Machoi in Jammu & Kashmir has showed no change since 1957. Same is true of Siachen and Kagriz in Ladakh, according to GSI.

This was revealed by V K Raina, chairman, Monitoring Committee on Himalayan Glaciology, government of India, at a conference in Lucknow University recently. He told TOI that while efforts to preserve the environment must go on, there was no reason to press the panic button based on Western analysis of melting Arctic glaciers.

"Western estimates are true for regions around the North Pole - but these glaciers open into the sea. In India, glaciers are situated over 3,500 m above the sea level. The Himalayas, in fact, are conducive for the preservation of glaciers," he said, and added, "Even if Gangotri retreats at 20 m per annum, it will last for 1,500 years."

Raina, also a former deputy director general of GSI, said doomsayers have based their claims of a much shorter life of Gangotri on the basis of reduction in discharge of water from the glacier into the Ganga.

But, he said, the glacier contributes only 25% to river discharge - the remaining 75% depends on snowfall and rainwater.

"The discharge in Ganga had increased in 2001 when there was heavy snowfall. This year, too, the snowfall's been heavy, hence the discharge will increase," he said.

Dhruv Sen Singh, who teaches geology at Lucknow University and who was part of India's first scientific expedition to the Arctic in '07, said, "Not only the rate of retreat of Gangotri has decreased, in Leh, 123 years of temperature data shows a cooling of .04 degree per decade."

He adds that the 20% rate of retreat of Gangotri in the '70s wasn't because of warming but because of the cracking of the linear structure of the glacier at the snout.

Then, some of its tributaries had become inactive and were contributing water instead of ice. These factors keep changing in the natural course leading to fluctuation in the rate of retreat of high mountain glaciers.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday March 25, 2008, 9:12 pm
From that same news source:

'Himalayan tragedy awaits India, China'

WASHINGTON: Shrinking Himalayan glaciers are going to turn Chinese and Indian rivers like the Ganga and the Yangtze into seasonal rivers that dry up in summers and could eventually lead to "politically unmanageable food shortages" in the region, a leading environmental scientist has warned.

Climate-driven shrinkage of river-based irrigation water supplies has been on the environmental community's radar for some time, but the alarm put out by Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, while invoking a "civilization-threatening scenario," is the starkest yet.

"The world has never faced such a predictably massive threat to food production as that posed by the melting mountain glaciers of Asia," Brown said in a paper released this week.

"In a world where grain prices have recently climbed to record highs, with no relief in sight, any disruption of the wheat or rice harvests due to water shortages in these two leading grain producers will greatly affect not only people living there but consumers everywhere."

Moreover, Brown said, in both of these countries, food prices will likely rise and grain consumption per person can be expected to fall. In India, where just over 40 per cent of all children under five years of age are underweight and undernourished, "hunger will intensify and child mortality will likely climb."

The projections were based partly on the fact that China and India are the world's leading producers of both wheat and rice -- humanity's food staples.

China's wheat harvest is nearly double that of the United States, which ranks third after India. With rice, China and India are far and away the leading producers, together accounting for over half of the world harvest.

In a separate teleconference, Brown said India's Gangetic plain faded the prospect of losing the double cropping that allowed it to harvest wheat in winter and rice in summer. Water tables were also dropping rapidly in both India and China and were dangerously low in many places.

"Both countries have lost momentum in the effort to raise grain production. In both countries stocks are down to minimal levels and both are wrestling with serious food price inflation," he said in remarks that come amid convulsions already in the world grain market.

Mountain glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau are melting and could soon deprive the major rivers of India and China of the ice melt needed to sustain them during the dry season, Brown's paper said. In the Ganges, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River basins, where irrigated agriculture depends heavily on rivers, this loss of dry-season flow will shrink harvests.

The paper referred to the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that Himalayan glaciers are receding rapidly and that many could melt entirely by 2035. If the giant Gangotri Glacier that supplies 70 per cent of the Ganges flow during the dry season disappears, it warned, the Ganges could become a seasonal river, flowing during the rainy season but not during the summer dry season when irrigation water needs are greatest.

The Ganga is the largest source of surface water irrigation in India and the leading source of water for the 407 million people living in the Gangetic Basin, a population larger than any other single country other than China. The Yellow River and Yangtze basin hold a similar position in China.

Brown said that as food shortages unfold, China will try to hold down domestic food prices by using its massive dollar holdings to import grain, most of it from the United States, the world's leading grain exporter. As irrigation water supplies shrink, Chinese consumers will be competing with Americans for the US grain harvest.
India too may try to import large quantities of grain, although it may lack the economic resources to do so, especially if grain prices keep climbing, the paper forecast.

"Many Indians will be forced to tighten their belts further, including those who have no notches left," it predicted.

Brown said since glaciologists have given a clear sense of how fast glaciers are shrinking, the challenge now is to translate their findings into national energy policies designed to save the glaciers.

"At issue is not just the future of mountain glaciers, but the future of world grain harvests," the paper said, urging that the "The alternative to this civilization-threatening scenario is to abandon business-as-usual energy policies and move to cut carbon emissions 80 per cent -- not by 2050 as many political leaders suggest, because that will be too late, but by 2020."

One route that the paper recommended is for China and India to shift energy investment from coal-fired power plants into energy efficient wind farms, solar thermal power plants, and geothermal power plants.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday March 25, 2008, 9:17 pm
What's going on? Well, news sources want to be "fair" about a controversy that appears to be happening, so naturally they feature both sides of it to appear balanced. But if 95% of the scientists who study the global warming issue are in agreement about its cause and its effects, and 5% are denialists, and the media gives 50%/50% of its attention to each side, is that really balance? No, it is NOT! It is actually an inaccuracy of sorts.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday March 25, 2008, 9:55 pm
I just noticed this about Judy's article:

"India has 9,575 glaciers, of which around 50 are being monitored by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) on a regular basis."

That's less than one percent of all the glaciers. To assume that those 50 are a representative sample of all of them is nonsense. I'd lable the GSI incompetent and lazy!

Gaias Son Aiki (40)
Wednesday March 26, 2008, 8:16 am

It is a known fact that any statistics and information coming from Indian authorities must be doubly and if possible trippel checked as they are well known for faulty reporting, lacking in monitoring and having dubious statistical analasyses. Another fact too is that the newspapers are pretty much pressured by the government to publish such stories. And lastly, but not the least, the inefficient Indian government does not want to be seen as mishandling a major water crisis, thus making it seem less severe is in the "public interest" as defined by the corrupt Indian government.

That aside, all independent research shows strong correlations between unseasonal flooding and droughts and over time less water carrying capacity associated with the many rivers that these agrarian societies rely on for for agriculture and drinking water. It is all due to human induced climate change happening in the Asian water tower (as the Himalayan region is sometimes called) leading to massive reductions of glaciers.

Judy Cross (83)
Wednesday March 26, 2008, 8:38 am
Great, now we have Green Racism! One could say exactly the same about James Hansen's GISS, the outfit that massages faulty data to show warming from ground based stations that the satellites can't find.

Glaciers grow and retreat according to precipitation and it has nothing to do with CO2. It has far more to do with almost anything else besides CO2.

Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who have recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame.

A new study of the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Western Himalaya mountain ranges by researchers at England's Newcastle University shows consistent recent growth among the region's glaciers.

Researchers found cooler summers are failing to melt winter snows, which are themselves becoming more frequent, resulting in advancing ice sheets.

The study was published in the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.

Gaias Son Aiki (40)
Wednesday March 26, 2008, 9:53 am
Green racism? You have a very funny way with words Judy, as all your comments about global warming show that you are way off, not only with words, but also in terms of arguments. Have you lived in India? Do you know anything about Indian society? I think the vast majority of Indians would agree with me that Indian data (almost any kind, and especially that collected by the government) is highly unreliable and not to be trusted, and I think the vast majority of Indians would agree that their government is corrupt. Indian's themselves rate their society as amongst the world's most corrupt. This is not Green racism, this is a fact. A simple google search will show that. And because this puts your story in bad lights you fall back on "Green racism". That is rather pathetic, as most of your arguments concerning global warming are anyhow. So I will not take it personally. It is just your way of arguing a very bad point (that lost relevance several years ago, a fact you have yet to realize).

Gaias Son Aiki (40)
Wednesday March 26, 2008, 9:58 am

Retreating glaciers has a lot to do with global warming, and global warming is caused by human induced factors, such as greenhouse gasses, of which CO2 is the most common. Glaciers may change (grow and reduce) from year to year, but the long term trend, as is seen with the polar ice caps, is that there is a major reduction in both thickness and coverage of glaciers world wide.

This is a very simple fact!
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