Wednesday, January 23, 2013
A Petri Dish for Climate Change Adaptation
Andean glaciers are quickly melting away. It's reported they're melting faster than they have in three centuries. Millions of South Americans are dependent on meltwater from these glaciers. That's about to change.
"Glacier retreat in the tropical Andes over the last three decades is unprecedented," said Antoine Rabatel, the lead author of the study and a scientist with the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France.
The researchers also warned that future warming could totally wipe out the smaller glaciers found at lower altitudes that store and release fresh water for downstream communities.
What's apparent is that Andean peoples are going to face some difficult choices. They'll either have to find ways and the means to adapt to the loss of the glaciers or they'll have to migrate. Their ability to remain is probably going to depend on their ability to capture and store winter rainwater. It's difficult, especially in seismically active regions, and potentially extremely expensive but mountains do afford opportunities for the construction of reservoirs.
How the Andean nations deal with this challenge will provide useful lessons for every other country faced with the same problem.