Monday, November 30, 2009

Climate Change and Melting Glaciers

Nepal's poor have more pressing problems.
The lack of water in the shadow of the Himalayas may seem like a strong argument for drastic, short-term reductions in carbon emissions. Indeed, the plight of people like the Bishwokarmas has been used by Al Gore and other campaigners to argue for just such cuts. Climate activists argue that there is a link between melting glaciers in the Himalayas and water shortages elsewhere.
On the surface, this makes sense. But when we dig deeper, we find that the Himalaya glaciers are difficult even for scientists to understand. Most suggestions of rapid melting are based on observations of a small handful of India's 10,000 or so Himalayan glaciers. A comprehensive report in November by senior glaciologist Vijay Kumar Raina, released by the Indian government, looked more broadly and found that many of these glaciers are stable or have even advanced, and that the rate of retreat for many others has slowed recently.
Jeffrey S. Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona, declared in the Nov. 13 issue of Science that these "extremely provocative" findings were "consistent with what I have learned independently," while in the same issue of the magazine Kenneth Hewitt, a glaciologist at Wilfrid Laurier University, agreed that "there is no evidence" to support the suggestion that the glaciers are disappearing quickly. Read more.

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