No Time Left to Adapt to Melting Glaciers — Peak Water Has Already Come and Gone

Melt water from the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca forms lagoons that in turn feed rivers and streams. Credit:Courtesy of Michel Baraer

Without sharp reductions in the use of fossil fuels, the impacts of climate change could come faster and beyond what humanity can adapt to — Lonnie Thompson, glaciologist

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 27, 2011 (Tierramérica)

The water supplied by the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca, vital to a huge region of northwest Peru, is decreasing 20 years sooner than expected, according to a new study.

Water flows from the region’s melting glaciers have already peaked and are in decline, Michel Baraer, a glaciologist at Canada’s McGill University, told Tierramérica. This is happening 20 to 30 years earlier than forecasted.

“Our study reveals that the glaciers feeding the Río Santa watershed are now too small to maintain past water flows. There will be less water, as much as 30 percent less during the dry season,” said Baraer, lead author of the study “Glacier Recession and Water Resources in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca”, published Dec. 22 in the Journal of Glaciology.

When glaciers begin to shrink in size, they generate “a transitory increase in runoff as they lose mass,” the study notes.

However, Baraer explained, the water flowing from a glacier eventually hits a plateau and from this point onwards there is a decrease in the discharge of melt water. “The decline is permanent. There is no going back.” Continue reading

Colombian Forest Project Reaps Credits… and Criticism

Procuenca reforestation

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 6, 2010 (Tierramérica)

The “Procuenca Initiative” in the Andes region of western Colombia may be the first in the world to sell certified forest carbon credits with a biodiversity protection component. But alarms are sounding about the potential negative social and environmental consequences.

Under way since 2001, the programme will begin to operate in the international market next year, having received official registration Apr. 16 under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Part of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, in force since 2005, the CDM allows industrialised countries to earn credits for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by investing in projects in developing countries that expand their capacity to absorb the carbon emissions.

Procuenca is expected to auction credits for some 350,000 tonnes of carbon that has been sequestered since the project began, initiative director Francisco Ocampo told Tierramérica through a translator.

At the current market value of 20 dollars per tonne, the total would be 7 million dollars for a struggling community, one that is still suffering from the collapse of coffee prices more than a decade ago.

“This project demonstrates the international importance of these forests for carbon storage,” said Ocampo. Continue reading