Headed for a Doom

The oft uttered refrain  'Climate change and its Consequences' have manifested in the recent years with increased number of forest fires, depleting non-renewable source of energy, massive floods killing thousands at a time.

Global warming is a hard reality. Everybody talks about it but nobody is serious about it. Advanced industrialised countries maintain a double standard when it is the question of reducing green house gases. They ask less developed countries not to burn coal but they themselves show no inclination to limit emissions. With Russia stopping gas supply to Europe in view of the Ukraine war and sanctions on Moscow coal is now the only option for Germany and some east European countries to tide over the mounting energy crisis. Germany is re-starting its coal -fired thermal plants giving goodbye to their much publicised plan that they would phase out coal-based plants by 2050. And Poland has stepped up its coal production. In short global warming is likely to worsen not in the distant future.

The snow and ice on Himalayas and its Glaciers are melting which has caused floods in Pakistan and droughts in China. And it is going to affect India severely in the coming years.

The continuous melting of ice and snow in the Himalayas has led to 30 million people being affected in Pakistan, submerging not just farmlands but also cities. When the earth heats up, more water evaporates and is captured in the atmosphere, creating drought and, when it finally rains, a torrent. The period from January to July 2022 was the sixth-warmest start to a calendar year for the globe in records going back 143 years, according to the US National Centers for Environmental Information.

The glacial melt in Himalayas is way more than scientists had anticipated. The record heat wave planet Earth witnessed this year has resulted in the increased glacial melt on the Alps for Europe and Himalayas for the Asian countries.

Himalayas are also the largest reserve of frozen fresh water after North and South poles. Global warming is accelerating the loss of Himalayan glaciers, destabilising a fragile system that’s helped regulate the earth’s atmosphere and key water cycles for millennia.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indore have recorded extreme melting in the Himalayan glaciers due to intense summer and heat waves earlier this year. They have been tracking the extent of snow cover, ice formations, and discharge from seasonal snowmelt for over 15 years.

India witnessed an intense heat wave in early summer when temperatures in March and April broke 100-year records. And it caused glacial melt. A team of IIT Indore was on a glacier recently and they saw record-breaking melt in the Himalayas.

Glaciers are made of layers of compressed snow that move or “flow" due to gravity and the softness of ice relative to rock. A glacier’s “tongue" can extend hundreds of miles from its high-altitude origins, and the end, or “snout" can advance or retreat based on snow accumulating or melting.

Researchers last year also estimated that the glaciers have lost around 40 per cent of their area, shrinking from a peak of 28,000 square kms to around 19,600 sq kms in 2021. During that period they also lost 390 cubic kms of ice.

The Himalayas, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush mountain ranges contain almost 55,000 glaciers that feed river systems on which more than 1.3 billion people rely. India has 16,627 glaciers which have also started melting at an alarming rate. If 7000 glaciers could rein catastrophe on Pakistan, India could be headed for a doom.

Russia and four other European countries are actively intervening in the Arctic region to establish military bases and exploring units to search for minerals and oil. And Arctic ice is melting. Climate crisis is knocking at the door but after some noises on climate problem it is business as usual.

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Vol 55, No. 13, Sep 25 - Oct 1, 2022