Glaciers, Water, The Andes

I don’t care if it’s called Global Warming, Global Weirding, Climate Change or Xifurteling, something big is happening. Life is changing for tens of thousands. Common sense evaluations, let alone science, says these changes are connected to an enormous, moving system. Inertia alone, even if the driving forces could be diminished, would keep it going for years. And not enough is being done either to lessen the energy in, or to deal with the consequences.

Throughout the Andean mountain range, high altitude glaciers are melting faster, altering eco-systems, and turning countries such as Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia into test cases for climate change. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that rising temperatures could melt most of Latin America’s glaciers by 2022. And as temperatures rise, some experts predict the disappearing glaciers will create water shortages and social unrest.

Edson Ramirez, a hydrologist at San Andres University in La Paz, predicts the Tuni-Condoriri glacier system – which includes Chacaltaya – will be gone within 20 to 30 years.

“There’s no doubt we’re facing a crisis,” he said. “And what’s worse, we simply don’t have the capacity to deal with it.”

The effect of diminishing glaciers is most evident in El Alto, an indigenous community of 800,000 people perched above the capital of La Paz. Waves of mostly Aymara immigrants – the satellite city is growing at between 5 percent and 10 percent a year – arrive daily, fleeing the poverty of their native highlands. With the disappearance of glacial water supplies and a decrepit and poorly managed water company, the city could soon suffer a severe water shortage, experts say.

Glaciers, Water, The Andes

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