Year 2, Month 8, Day 17: Slippery When Wet.

Tuscon Citizen for August 1 ran a USA Today squib on the world’s melting glaciers:

Two of three Himalayan glaciers — both in humid areas of eastern Nepal — could disappear if present climate change patterns continue, a study released today predicts.

The Rikha Samba glacier, in a relatively arid area of western Nepal, showed little shrinkage in the past decade compared with the two prior decades, but the other two glaciers, known as Yala and AX010, show accelerated wastage over the last decade, according to the study.

The researchers say glaciers in humid environments can exist at lower altitudes, leaving them vulnerable to warming. They say that if climate trends observed since the 1990s continue, these two glaciers may disappear because ice masses will probably not receive enough snow to replenish the shrinkage.

After writing the letter I found they had no LTE mechanism at all…so I just left the beautifully crafted 150-word piece as a comment. The hell with it. Web comments don’t usually count as letters in my book, but I’m too tired to care at the moment. Posted August 1:

One of the most alarming aspects of the news that the world’s glaciers are dwindling rapidly under the onslaught of global climate change is that so few Americans are paying attention. Perhaps glaciers are too far away and unfamiliar, or the year of their projected final disappearance from the planet is still too remote. Perhaps people have more pressing concerns: jobs, the economy, healthcare. But ultimately there’s no greater issue than the survival of the environment; politicians’ attempts to frame it as an either/or debate are extremely misleading. Our aspirations to economic growth disregard the fact that we live on a finite world; continued expansion beyond the capacity of Earth’s natural systems is a fatally flawed aspiration. The melting glaciers are one of many indicators that the planet’s resources are failing. If Americans don’t pay attention now, we’re in for a series of very unpleasant surprises in the coming decades.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 1: From The Roof Of The World…

One of the world’s most experienced Everest hands, Apa Sherpa, has firsthand testimony about the effects of climate change, reports the July 16th edition of The Hindu:

It was in 1985 that Apa Sherpa, who scaled Mount Everest for the 21st time in May 2011, came face to face with climate change. His entire village Thame was washed away in a massive glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) of the Dig Tsho (Tsho-lake), in the western section of the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Khumbu Himal, on August 4, 1985.

The veteran mountaineer, who dropped out of school at 12 to work as a porter for expeditions to support his family, told The Hindu that the lake burst at 2 a.m. and he had a narrow escape. Now his worry is another glacial lake in the Everest region, Imja, which is growing bigger. “Imja Khola is a threat to the entire region and I can’t say if it is as safe as is made out to be. We have to do something before it bursts.” Imja, located in the Khumbu region close to the Everest base camp, did not exist in photographs taken in the 1950s, but now has rapidly expanded to 1.012 sq km.

When The Force offers you a good analogy, take it. Sent July 16:

The Sherpa villagers below the burgeoning Imja lake in Mount Everest’s shadow have much to teach the rest of humanity. Of all the world’s peoples, these villagers have contributed not a single iota to the CO2 emissions that have built up in our atmosphere over the past century and now threaten to trigger a runaway greenhouse effect — yet they are the ones who daily look up at a growing lake poised over their heads.

All the Earth’s peoples now face the Sherpas’ Damoclean predicament. If humanity is to endure and prosper, it is time to get to work on controlling our carbon emissions, addressing the genuine threat of climate change. The world’s political and economic leaders appear to care more for profits than people, but it’s only through a global transition to renewable energy that they, and we, will survive the coming centuries of climate chaos.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 2, Day 24: Baked Alaska

The Anchorage Daily News notes that climate change is going to affect Alaska’s National Parks. So far the comments haven’t accumulated much in the way of stupidity. I wonder how long that’ll last.

Sent February 15:

It is ironic that Alaska owes much of its income stream to the same corporate forces that bankroll climate-change denialism. It’s ironic that Alaska owes much of its income stream to the same corporate forces that bankroll climate-change denialism. Rising global temperatures will devastate Alaska’s National Parks — retreating glaciers, vanishing sea ice, habitat losses and vitiated local ecosystems being just a few examples of what we can expect in the years to come. Once the evidence is too strong to ignore or discount, governments and corporations will have to move to mitigate the damage. Sadly, rapid recovery from environmental destruction on a planetary scale is impossible; scientific assessments of the long-term scope of global warming suggest that we may well be dealing with rising temperatures for centuries to come. With gradual changes of the sort found in the long-term historical record, there has been time for populations and ecosystems to adapt; the transformations effected by the greenhouse effect, however, are the environmental equivalent of driving into a wall at 100 mph. Climate-change denialists, meanwhile, are telling us we don’t even need to fasten our seat belts.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 20: Damoclean Living

The Washington Post ran an article on a small town in France that is well worth reading.

The people of Saint-Gervais daily confront a very precarious situation. Perched above their heads is a huge mass of liquid water trapped inside a slowly melting glacier. If things get too warm, a catastrophic flood could wipe out their village with only a few moments’ notice. Adequate risk assessment and amelioration are all but impossible; nobody has ever seen a situation like this before. The proposed solutions present problems of their own, posing almost as much risk as inaction — and many of Saint-Gervais’ citizens, finding it too uncomfortable, simply deny the facts of the crisis. It is rare to find such an elegantly eerie microcosm of our planetary condition; with the terrifying threats of global climate change looming over us, we have all become citizens of Saint-Gervais, our population — and our peril — amplified a millionfold.

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 11: Well, Now We Can Breathe A Great Big Sigh Of Relief.

Desperately hunting for something that isn’t about the Gulf of Mexico…found this article from the AP in the Washington Post. Some Dutch scientists think the original predictions of the impacts of glacial shrinkage were too severe. It is always fun to write the WaPo, because they’ve had such a terrible record on climate issues, and I get to mock them a bit.

What a relief! Only sixty million people (give or take a few hundred thousand) may be affected by droughts, water failures, and food shortages, as opposed to the hundreds of millions originally described in the IPCC study. Those of us who are paying attention to climate change must take our good news where we can, for there isn’t much of it. And the fact that a phrase like “only sixty million people may be affected” is somehow “good news” is bad news indeed. It is long past time for our politicians and our media to stop playing rhetorical games on climate issues, and start confronting the facts with clarity and respect for science. When the debate is whether climate change will destroy the livelihoods of sixty million vs. two hundred million people — that’s no longer a debate. We can no longer afford to remain ignorant of the facts.

Warren Senders