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The die-off of Andean rivers

HUARAZ, Peru — Glacier melt in the Peruvian Andes has caused increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and exposed more rock that feeds new pollutants into the mountain rivers.

Federico Huanca Torres, a farmer and mountain guide in the Cordillera Blanca in northern Peru, said his community used to fish Quilcayhuanca River, which runs down from Huascaran mountain and is the life source for many Andean communities. But in the last 20 years, all the fish in the river have died off. Torres said his family relies on beans as their only source of protein.

Federico Huanca Torres discusses the impact of climate change to the Quilcayhuanca River, which runs from Cordillera through Huascaran National Park and into the municipality Huaraz.

The Quilcayhuanca is a critical water source for the tourist town of Huaraz, which sits at the base of the Cordillera Blanca, but residents and tourists have severely polluted it over the years. Local environmentalists point to human impact on the river systems, as well as the impacts of climate change, as a threat to water quality in the region.

The Quilcayhuanca River in Huaraz.

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Heather versus the glacier

Mount Huascarán, Peru's highest mountain at 22,200 feet, towers above the other glacier peaks in the Cordillera Blanca range of the Andes in northern Peru.

Our South America reporter Heather Somerville sent us a brief update today from her travels in Peru, where she is tracking the effects of glacial melt in the country:
“Monday through Thursday of last week was full — and I mean full — of interviews with government officials, environmentalists and NGOs. It was a whirlwind, and it was by and large very successful. Thursday I traveled to the Cordillera Blanca, a glorious place in the northern Peruvian Andes, where I spent Friday with Peru’s leading glacier scientist, who took me to two communities impacted by glacier melt.
… Continue Reading

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Climate change ups ante in disaster response, World Bank says

A World Bank report released last week calls climate change, rapid urbanization and climate-induced catastrophes “game changers” in the destinies of nations and the way they currently respond to disasters.

The report says it’s wise for countries to invest in disaster prevention rather than spend exorbitant amounts after hazards have struck. Titled Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters – the Economics of Effective Prevention, the report looks at economic effects of disasters – natural and manmade—and provides cost-effective solutions that countries can look at as they plan to tackle 21st century challenges like  climate change induced crises.

It warns that climate change-induced catastrophes, which it defines as “disasters that occur on a global scale and are likely to be irreversible over any realistic time frame for decision-making,” are going to be  … Continue Reading

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Obama talks climate change in Indonesia

WASHINGTON — Climate change emerged as the top priority during President Barack Obama’s visit this week to Indonesia.

On Nov. 9, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a new partnership with the U.S. to combat the threat of climate change, according to a White House press release. The U.S.-Indonesia partnership includes $136 million in U.S. funding, the bulk of which will be spent on climate change research and forest conservation. Another $7 million will go toward the establishment of a Climate Change Center in Indonesia that will link science to policy and set Indonesia’s priorities for climate change adaption and mitigation, according to media reports from Indonesia. The U.S. pledged another $10 million in funding for projects to protect peatlands.

Obama also offered his support for Norway’s pledge of up to $1 billion over the next seven to eight years to support Indonesia’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. The Norway-Indonesia agreement was signed in May.

Climate change impacts in Indonesia worry security experts like Capt. Tim Gallaudet, director the U.S. Navy Climate Change Task Force. In a recent interview, Gallaudet said he was concerned that ocean acidification, caused by increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, could have a negative impact on fisheries in Indonesia, threatening food security and stability of the country. The low-lying island nation is threatened by rising sea levels, which cases erosion and flooding, and has also suffered from high levels of deforestation, which some climate experts say both contributes to and exacerbates the impacts of climate change.

Just before his arrival in Indonesia, Obama was in India, promising to work together on climate change mitigation. According to the White House, India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Obama reaffirmed their countries’ commitments to “taking vigorous action to address climate change” through clean energy initiatives.

Obama’s climate change discussions overseas contrast with the conversations — or perhaps, lack thereof — on Capitol Hill, where the House now has a new class of climate skeptics. Environmentalists and climate scientists have been bracing for an attack since mid-term elections last week, when a largely climate-skeptic Republican Party took control of the House.

The Center for American Progress Action Fund found that nearly all Republican candidates in congressional and gubernatorial races disputed the science on global warming, and none supported measures to mitigate it, reported in a recent article in The Washington Post. Moreover, questions abound whether Republicans will shut down the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was launched by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and to bring attention to climate issues. Ranking GOP members have already made threats about investigating the EPA and climate science.

The GOP’s midterm victory effectively ends the two-year effort to pass sweeping climate legislation. Meanwhile, the U.S. appears dedicated to spending hundreds of millions to combat climate change in nations half a world away.

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Climate change in top 3 global concerns

A new Climate Change Confidence report released by US bank HSBC lists climate change as one of the top three global concerns for consumers, alongside terrorism and economic stability.  HSBC’s Climate Change Centre of Excellence commissioned the report to understand the economic implications of climate change and climate-related business opportunities worldwide.  This is the fourth annual study providing consumer perceptions on climate change.

The study found respondents in developing economies have the highest concern in terms of their climate vulnerability.  People in developed economies supported low-carbon solutions and pushed for businesses to invest more in resources used to tackle climate change. … Continue Reading

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Economic growth threatened by climate change

Even as some symptoms of global warming may bring an economic boon, like increased shipping in a melting Arctic, some of the world’s fastest growing economies may be the most vulnerable to climate change. … Continue Reading

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Watching changes at the top of the world, looking to security

Everest

Mount Everest (Credit: ilkerender, via flickr)

Melting ice caps and dramatic climate change usually bring to mind images of Greenland and Antarctica, but there’s another significant melt underway in a place that bears far greater consequences for humans in the near-term: the Himalayas.

On Friday, a trio of Indian environmental experts published an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor pointing to the role that black carbon plays in the region’s environmental changes.  Black carbon, spewed from the diesel tailpipes and coal-fired power plants that characterize the region, stays in the atmosphere for only a matter of weeks and is responsible for as much as half of the warming in the region. … Continue Reading

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CDC gives out climate change grants

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is giving eight states and two city health departments the first-ever grants to look at the health impacts of climate change.

Hotter temperatures and extreme weather conditions, such as droughts and floods, can lead to deadly heat stroke, respiratory illnesses and the spread of insect-borne and water-borne diseases, according to the CDC website.  Other concerns the CDC has linked with health and climate change are found here. … Continue Reading

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