Glacial Melt: It’s kind of a big deal…

Glaciers are melting all over the world, from Alaska to Greenland to the Andes and the Rockies. As these massive blocks of ice shrink year by year, the world may face greater consequences than seal level rise…

As this article points out, over 1 billion people in Asia are dependent upon rivers formed by glacial melt. In case that number isn’t shocking enough, there are approximately 312,119,789 in the United States according to the most recent census. If the glacial rivers in Asia disappear, a population equal to three times that of our entire country will be forced to look for alternate water sources in winter months. Not only will a shortage of water lead to agricultural failure, but can also induce political strife. Many wars have been fought over resources, and most did not end well.

Perhaps the most saddening aspect of this sequence of events is the innocence of the people themselves. Let’s be honest. How large of a carbon footprint can a Nepali herdsman with no electricity, no car, and no roads create? I can assure you the air is clear of smog around the peak of Shivling in the Himalayas. While the remainder of the world continues to burn massive quantities of fossil fuels, increase production levels, and consume resources, others may pay the initial price.

The same things are happening right in our own backyards. The glaciers of Alaska and Montana are receding at an unprecedented rate. Not only is water on the line here, but also wheat crops, and other agricultural endeavors. Shortages like the ones seen already in East Asia can drive prices up, and affect the global economy.

PBS filmed a special called “On Thin Ice,” which aired a couple years ago, tying in both scientific research, human populations, and the economics of climate change. Scientists conducted research in the Himalayas recording just how quickly these massive glaciers are retreating, and how melting is affecting humanity. Science often can be perceived as a separate and removed set of problems, with scientists in white lab coats recording data in a laboratory. But climate change affects more than the Earth itself, it affects people. I especially like this PBS production for its emphasis on the human aspect of climate change. Branccaccio and Anker bring a personal perspective to the data of climate change science.

You can watch a short clip of this PBS documentary here, or the full version here.

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