Global Warming Claims Another Glacier in Peru
Awful news. Quilca Glacier (5,250 meters above sea level) in Puno has disappeared completely, reports Peru’s National Institute for Natural Resources (IRENA).
The disappearance of Quilca is part of an ongoing recession of tropical glaciers throughout the Andes, where climate change (mainly rising air temperatures) is making it impossible for the ice to regenerate.
Experts such as Marco Zapata, of IRENA, predict that no glaciers will be left in Peru by 2025.
Please do the math. That’s 16 years away.
Why should people care that tropical glaciers are melting in this Andean country? The reasons are both local and global.
First, Peru derives 80% of its water for drinking, agriculture and hydropower from glacier melt-off. A major drought is looming, and no large-scale strategy to find and use other water sources has been implemented.
“No water, no life,” as the llama herders on Mount Ausangate, in southern Peru, told me in September ‘08.
Secondly, the loss of glacier meltoff will have a devastating effect on the Amazon region, which is fed by streams that originate in the Andes. Two years ago, NASA pinpointed the origin of the Amazon River itself at snow-capped Mount Mismi, in southern Peru, and was predicting major impacts by 2050:
Tracing the origin of the Amazon river back to a glacier highlights the vulnerability of the river system to climate change. Glaciers and snowmelt in the Andes are the source for as much as 50 percent of the water in the upper Amazon, yet global warming puts these at risk: the Peruvian government estimates that the country’s glaciers have shrunk by more than 20% in the past 30 years… Further downstream, models show that climate change, combined with deforestation, will leave the Amazon rainforest considerably drier by 2050, further impacting water availability in the river basin.
Given that Amazon rainforest produces 20% of the earth’s oxygen, the depletion of its meltwater sources is catastrophic news for everyone on the planet.
Please share this information with anyone you know who (1) drinks water; (2) breathes oxygen; and (3) gives a damn about the people who will be alive in 2025 or 2050.
--Barbara R. Drake (first published on An American in Lima, Jan. 26, 2009)