Monday, May 08, 2006

Scary stuff about Asia - from the Independent

Ok - it's not ideal to re-start posting on this blog after a period of silence with such gloomy news......Next time I'll try to post something more upbeat on the many things happening around the world to combat climate change...But this is really a wake-up call and it needs to be publicised.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences - the country's top scientific body - has announced that the glaciers of the Tibetan plateau are vanishing so fast that they will be reduced by 50 per cent every decade, the Independent reported today. The glaciers have been receding over the past four decades, as the world has gradually warmed up, but the process has now accelerated alarmingly.

The vast environmental changes brought about by the process will increase droughts and sandstorms over the rest of the country, and devastate many of the world's greatest rivers.

Prof Dong Guangrong, speaking for the academy - after a study analysing data from 680 weather stations scattered across the country - said that the rising temperatures would thaw out the tundra of the plateau, turning it into desert. He added: "The melting glaciers will ultimately trigger more droughts, expand desertification and increase sand storms." The water running off the plateau is increasing soil erosion and so allowing the deserts to spread.

Sandstorms, blowing in from the degraded land, are already plaguing the country. So far this year, 13 of them have hit northern China, including Beijing. Three weeks ago one storm swept across an eighth of the vast country and even reached Korea and Japan. On the way, it dumped a mind-boggling 336,000 tons of dust on the capital, causing dangerous air pollution.

Perhaps worst of all, the melting threatens to disrupt water supplies over much of Asia. Many of the continent's greatest rivers - including the Yangtze, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong and the Yellow River - rise on the plateau.

In China alone, 300 million people depend on water from the glaciers for their survival. Yet the plateau is drying up, threatening to escalate an already dire situation across the country. Already 400 cities are short of water; in 100 of them - including Beijing - the shortages are becoming critical.

Even hopes that the melting glaciers might provide a temporary respite, by increasing the amount of water flowing off the plateau - have been dashed. For most of the water is evaporating before it reaches the people that need it - again because of the rising temperatures brought by global warning.