Cause for Alarm: Glacier Loss & Damage in Peru & the US
Around 50 people have suffered injuries in Peru after part of a glacier broke off and burst the Hualcan River banks in a disaster the local governor attributed to climate change, destroying 20 nearby homes. While in the US, warmer temperatures have reduced the number of named glaciers from 37 to 25 in Glacier National Park. P. Elizabeth Anderson in the Examiner says “we are dangerously complacent about what climate change is doing. Tsunami-level warnings should be going off each time a change of the magnitude of losing a glacier is registered.”
AFP reports (12 April 2010):
Around 50 people have suffered injuries in Peru after part of a glacier broke off and burst the Hualcan River banks in a disaster the local governor attributed to climate change.
The mass of glacial ice and rock fell into the so-called “513 lake” in the northern Ancash region, causing a ripple effect down the Hualcan, destroying 20 nearby homes.
“Because of global warming the glaciers are going to detach and fall on these overflowing lakes. This is what happened today,” Ancash Governor Cesar Alvarez told reporters, linking climate change to the disappearance of a third of the glaciers in the Peruvian Andes over the past three decades.
A 2009 World Bank-published report warned Andean glaciers and the region’s permanently snow-covered peaks could disappear in 20 years if no measures are taken to tackle climate change.
According to the report, in the last 35 years Peru’s glaciers have shrunk by 22 per cent, leading to a 12 per cent loss in the amount of fresh water reaching the coast – home to most of the country’s citizens.
Animal Advocacy Examiner P. Elizabeth Anderson in the Denver, Colorado (9 April 2010):
Two days ago, Matthew Brown of The Associated Press filed a story about the loss of two more glaciers from Glacier National Park in Billings, Montana, but it was not picked up by many papers. The Washington Post ran the news as a brief of about three paragraphs. The New York Times devoted more space, but not much more prominence.
We are dangerously complacent about what climate change is doing. We stopped calling the phenomena global warming to make it more political correct, but still we ignore what is happening.
Tsunami-level warnings should be going off each time a change of the magnitude of losing a glacier is registered. Just like the imminent extinction of the polar bear, we will look up one day and the inevitable will have happened. We will have suffered irrecoverable losses of land and animals.
Warmer temperatures have reduced the number of named glaciers from 37 to 25 in Glacier National Park.
Dan Fagre, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey warns that the remaining glaciers may be gone by the end of the decade. Can you pause for a moment and consider that all of the ice may have melted in less than 10 years. You probably hope to live that long. If not you, your children or grandchildren, perhaps. If you are over the age of 16, you know that 10 years go by in a flash.
Our legacy to future generations is destruction and annihilation. Glaciers have been part of the landscape for 7,000 years and could be gone in 10 years. That boggles my mind.
Many people do not believe in climate change. I was aghast to read that Don Blankenship—chief executive of Massey Energy, the parent company of the West Virginia coal mine where 25 miners died this week—spent millions of dollars on media campaigns to defeat politicians who agreed with environmentalists that he is a “symbol of damage caused by greenhouse gases and the destruction of mountaintops to reach buried coal.” I do not understand how people can ignore the science behind the truth of what is happening to the planet for their own gains. When more people are dead, more ice is melted, and more species are gone, it will be too late.
Most scientists associate the warming caused by climate change directly to higher concentrations of those greenhouse gases which Blankenship and others ignore. When are we going to see that everything is connected? Yes, the glaciers have been melting since the year 1850, but the melting has accelerated in recent decades as temperatures increased.
Fagre was quoted in the New York Times as saying that by the time they get home from measuring glacier margins, the glacier “is already smaller than what [was] measured.”
The latest two glaciers to fall below the 25-acre threshold for being named had shrunk by approximately 55 percent since the mid-1960s.
Locally, fewer glaciers means less water in streams for fish and a higher risk for forest fires. More death, more destruction. On a larger scale, the melting glaciers are a dramatic example of irrecoverable ecosystem changes. We cannot make more glaciers. We care more about who gets tossed from “Dancing with the Stars” or the latest texts from Tiger’s mistresses than we do about the environment.
“More than 90 percent of glaciers worldwide are in retreat, with major losses already seen across much of Alaska, the Alps, the Andes and numerous other ranges,” according to the AP report. When are we going to comprehend the reality of the effects of climate change.