Climate Change Needed More Than Ever In The Face Of Melting Glaciers
May 14, 2013

Climate Change Needed More Than Ever In The Face Of Melting Glaciers

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Our world is shrinking, or at least the icy parts of it are. And new studies only pile on to the growing evidence of how climate change is altering the shape of this planet.

Scientists presented findings at the Meeting of the Americas in Cancún, Mexico about how the snow and ice covering Mount Everest is retreating. Glaciers on the mountain have shrunk by 13 percent in the last 50 years and the snow line has shifted upward by 590 feet.

The researchers believe the decline of snow and ice in the Everest region is from human-generated greenhouse gases altering climate change. In order to make this allegation, the team had to analyze hydro-meteorological data from the Nepal Climate Observatory stations and Nepal´s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology. They found the Everest region has undergone a 1.08-degree-Fahrenheit increase in temperature and 3.9-inch decrease in precipitation during the pre-monsoon and winter months since 1992.

The researchers were able to understand the extent of glacial change on Everest and the surrounding 713 square miles of the Sagarmatha National Park by compiling satellite imagery and topographic maps and reconstructing glacial history.

Sudeep Thakuri, who is leading the research as part of his PhD graduate studies at the University of Milan in Italy, said the team's analysis shows the majority of glaciers in the national park are retreating at an increasing rate.

“The Himalayan glaciers and ice caps are considered a water tower for Asia since they store and supply water downstream during the dry season,” said Thakuri. “Downstream populations are dependent on the melt water for agriculture, drinking, and power production.”

He said about 17 percent of rock and debris sections that were once covered up by ice and snow are now visible since the 1960s. Thakuri and his team also found that the ends of the glaciers have retreated by an average of 1,300 feet since 1962.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows sea levels could rise up to 27 inches by 2100 due to melting ice sheets and glaciers. The IPCC said global average sea-level has risen since 1961 at an average rate of 0.05-inches per year and 0.12-inches per year since 1993. The organization said whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variation or an increase in the longer-term trend is unclear; but what is clear is the contributions from thermal expansion, melting glaciers and ice caps, and the polar ice sheets.

According to the IPCC, Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk by 2.7 percent per decade, with larger summer decreases of 7.5 percent per decade since 1978.

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level," the organization wrote in its report. "Societies can respond to climate change by adapting to its impacts and by reducing GHG emissions (mitigation), thereby reducing the rate and magnitude of change."

As news continues to arise about how humans are creating negative impacts on our planet, it seems as though it is a never ending cycle. However, it is not too late to put an end to the changes, and governments are slowly but surely making moves to help out.

In April, a report by the Climate Policy Initiative showed how five key economies in the world, including Brazil, China, India, the European Union (EU) and the US, have had some real climate policy accomplishments in the last decade.

According to the report, Brazil has seen success in climate-related policies, slowing down deforestation by nearly half in the late-2000s. China has aggressively implemented climate and energy policies with particular focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy, while India has high renewable energy targets and industry energy efficiency policies. The EU has utilized the Emissions Trading Systems and policies to help reduce emissions in the last decade and the US has created a combination of incentive, regulation, persuasion and innovation at the federal and state level for residents.

“In spite of stalemate at the global level, there have been real climate policy accomplishments at the national and subnational levels, particularly in the last decade,” said Thomas C. Heller, Executive Director of Climate Policy Initiative. “Our job now is to learn from and build on this experience.”