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Scientists Warn that Climate Change May Affect Earth’s Long-Term Water Supply

Summit co-chair, Canadian John Pomeroy, a water resources and climate change expert, said the loss of water resources in mountain ranges around the world is devastating the communities in those areas

Climate Change
Climate Change is causing temperatures to rise in Earth's frozen zones, leading to a rapid melting on vital peaks. Pixabay

Experts warn that climate change is speeding up melting on Earth’s frozen peaks, threatening the planet’s long-term water supply.

The more than 150 global mountain experts attending the first High Mountain Summit warn time is running out for the world’s glaciers. They say climate change is causing temperatures to rise in Earth’s frozen zones, leading to a rapid melting on vital peaks.

For example, scientists say Swiss glaciers have lost 10 percent of their volume in the past five years. The disappearance of hundreds of small glaciers in the Alps was dramatized when hundreds of mourners recently attended what was dubbed a “funeral” to mark the loss of Switzerland’s Pizol glacier.

The World Meteorological Organization reports international observers show an acceleration in the retreat of 31 major glaciers in the past two decades. They include mountains in the Himalaya and Hindu Kush regions and Tibetan Plateau in Asia.

Summit co-chair, Canadian John Pomeroy, a water resources and climate change expert, said the loss of water resources in mountain ranges around the world is devastating the communities in those areas.  He said it also is destabilizing vast populations downstream.

“Around half of humanity relies upon water and rivers that originate in the high mountains. And, so this is used for irrigation. It is used for power production, hydroelectricity. It is used for our urban and community water supplies and it provides essential water for ecosystems from the mountaintop down to the sea.”

Pomeroy added the rapidly melting mountain glaciers are contributing to rising sea levels. He notes cities along the ocean such as Miami, Venice and Jakarta already are in big trouble.

Climate Change
After Climate Change, This combination of Sept. 14, 1986, left, and Aug. 1, 2019 photos provided by NASA shows the shrinking of the Okjokull glacier on the Ok volcano in west-central Iceland. A geological map from 1901 estimated Okjökull spanned an area of about 38 square kilometers (15 square miles). In 1978, aerial photography showed the glacier was 3 square kilometers. in 2019, less than 1 square kilometer remains. VOA

“For the high mountain communities or valleys in north India, Pakistan, central Asia, their irrigation is the only source of water for agriculture that is currently provided by ice melt from glaciers,” Pomeroy said. “And the glaciers are retreating … In the Western U.S., 90 percent of the water supplies are from the high mountains and they drive the economy.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which measures the impact of global warming, predicts snow cover, glaciers and permafrost will continue to decline in almost all regions throughout this century.

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The summit is calling for urgent action to support more sustainable development in both high-mountain areas and downstream. That will involve disaster risk reduction measures, better early warning systems, climate change adaptation and investment in infrastructure to make communities safer. (VOA)

Next Story

France Takes Steps to Shift to More Renewables For Energy

France Takes First Steps to Reduce Nuclear Energy Dependence

France Nuclear Plant
In this picture the nuclear plant in Fessenheim, eastern France. VOA

By Lisa Bryant

France, the world’s most nuclear energy-dependent nation, is taking its first steps to shift to more renewables to power up. This is the latest news.

On Saturday, the country begins a gradual shutdown of its aging Fessenheim plant. The move fits into the government’s broader energy strategy to reduce French dependence on nuclear energy from supplying three-quarters of its electricity to about half by 2035.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says the plant’s first reactor will be closed Saturday, and the second in June.

Another dozen reactors must close by 2035 to meet the phase-down target. The plan also sees France closing its remaining coal plants, and moving to renewables like solar and wind to close the energy gap and help fight climate change. For Charlotte Mijeon, spokesperson for anti-nuclear group Sortir du nucléaire, the Fessenheim shutdown is welcome news — but not enough.

France Nuclear Plant
A sticker is photographed on a helmet of an employee of Fessenheim’s nuclear power plant opposing the closure, during a protest outside the EDF headquarters in Paris, France. VOA

“It’s great that it’s eventually closed; however, we fear that Fessenheim is something like the tree hiding the forest,” she said. “The government is closing one nuclear power plant, but it should not make us forget that the rest of the nuclear fleet is aging.”

France has 58 nuclear power plants, thanks to an energy strategy dating back to the 1970s oil crisis. Supporters say nuclear energy is a clean way to fight climate change while also meeting national energy needs.

But critics say the plants have received billions in subsidies and nuclear lobbies are powerful, making it harder for renewables to compete. And they say the remaining plants pose mounting safety concerns as they age.

“Regarding the climate emergency, we have no time left,” Mijeon said. “So we have to invest in green climate solutions, not in nuclear power, which is not only dirty, but also very expensive and slow.”

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While the reactor shutdown is a first for France, other countries, including Switzerland, Sweden and the United States, have also shut plants for a mix of budgetary, safety and environmental reasons. Neighboring Germany aims to phase out of nuclear power completely by 2022. It has been pushing for years for the shutdown of Fessenheim, which is located near its border. (VOA)