￼ADAPTATION TO RAPID GLACIER RETREAT IN THE TROPICAL ANDES (BOLIVIA, ECUADOR, PERU)
Article originally written for World Bank Web Site by Natsuko Utsumi
As “global warming” became the household term of the 21st century, the latest IPCC report in 2007 confirms that Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and “Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases”
Latin America region, in particular, is very vulnerable to the climate impacts that is very significant and expected to irreversibly affect key ecosystems and the services they provide.
Among many climate impacts, the impact on water supply and water availability in Latin America are taking place today and are expected to worsen with time.
In Pucarumi, a small community in the foothills of the snow-capped Peruvian Andes, Felipe, an alpaca herder, has witnessed the receding of the life-giving Ausangate glacier every year. “We are feeling the effects of climate change,” says Felipe, His animals do not grow enough as the pastures do not get enough runoff from Ausangate . “This loss of snow means we receive less water. This climatic factor is causing us great danger.”
Less water means less pasture and more difficulty raising livestock. Their lands are running out of water to grow native potatoes without glacier runoffs, and they are left to plant “improved potatoes with chemical fertilizers” that cost money to them.1
Many might regard glaciers as continental glaciers as in the Antarctic with the image of a lone polar bear on the drifting piece of iceberg. However, most (70%??) of the world’s “Tropical glaciers”, a type of Alpine glacier, are located in the high Andes Cordillera of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
According to the recent report by the World Bank, “Visualizing Future Climate in Latin America”, Temperature increases are expected to be particularly extreme in the Andes. “The rate of increase is projected at two or more times those projected for average temperature increases. Changes of this magnitude will irreversibly affect the ecology of the Andes. Most immediately affected are tropical glaciers and other high mountain ecosystems. 2”
For instance, of currently present 18 mountain glaciers in Peru, 22% of the surface has been lost over the past 27 to 35 years, an area equivalent to that of all glaciers in Ecuador.3 Since 1970, glaciers in the Andes have already lost 20% of volume.
￼Moreover, most of the smaller glaciers are expected to diminish within a generation, Modeling work and projections indicate that many of the lower-altitude glaciers in the cordillera could completely disappear during the next 10 to 20 years. For example, Bolivia’s Chacaltaya glacier has lost most (82%) of its surface area since 1982 and may completely melt by 2013.4
Glacier Retreat and Water Supply:
One of the glaciers’ important functions is its water regulation capacity that runoffs during dry, warmer periods and stores water during wet, colder periods. As glaciers retreat, the water regulation function will be affected and eventually lost. Area of its impact covers the entire range of the tropical Andes, home to over 30 million people and host to biodiversity of global importance, while, the economic and social costs will run into billions of dollars for the power sector, and affecting water supply for mountain urban areas, agriculture, and ecosystem integrity.
Impact on water supply to Andean cities
More disappearance of the glaciers will consequently bring the major effect on water supply, power generation, and ecosystem integrity in the region.
Change in water supply will put population and food supply at risk, and can affect water costs and ultimately may impair the ability of these cities to maintain vibrant local economies. Large cities in the region are depending on Glacier runoffs for its water supply: Ecuador’s Quito depends 50% of its water supply from the glacier basin, and Bolivia’s La Paz, 30%.
Impact on energy
Most countries in the Andes are dependent on hydro energy for power generation: Bolivia 50%, Colombia 73%, Ecuador 72%, and Peru 81%. But this contribution will be diminished in areas where basins are glacier dependent.
Impact on agriculture
Reduced water supply during dry season, extended dry season impacts agriculture as People are already experiencing in Pecarumi community.
The impact of Andes’ glacier retreat on local economy is formidable. Take an example of Peru, annual incremental costs to its power sector are estimated at US$1.5 billion (should rationing conditions be allowed to occur), or US$212 million (if a gradual adaptation scenario is implemented).
￼In any case, Peru will likely have to invest in additional power capacity, most likely thermal-based, at a cost of about US$1billion per gigawatt installed, resulting in higher cost to end-users5, and of course that will set off the vicious cycle of the carbon emission. The World Bank’s lead engineer, Walter Vergara estimates that the economic consequences of glacier retreat are major, running into billions of dollars for the power sector.
Because runoff from glacierized basins of Andes is an important element of water budgets, assuring year-round flows for agriculture, potable water, power generation, and ecosystem integrity, changes induced by tropical glacier retreat constitute an early case of the need for adaptation and the type and size of associated economic and social impacts caused by climate change6
Some adaptation measures to climate impacts in Glaciarized basins (Bolivia, Ecuador Peru) include:
1)Development of alternative water supply sources , water demand management, and engineered water storage
2)Diversification of energy supply
3) hifting to alternative crops and developing advanced irrigation system
The World Bank is working together with Global Enfitonment Facility, to implement adaptation measure by:
- supporting the detailed design of selected adaptation measures;
- implementing regional and strategic adaptation pilots to address key impacts of rapid glacier retreat on selected basins; and
- supporting continuing observation and assessment of glacier retreat and the associated impacts on the region (no GEF resources are requested for this activity).
The project is being prepared with the assistance of a multidisciplinary group that includes expertise in glaciology, remote sensing, agriculture, water and power supply, and rural development.
Adaptation will be expensive. The region, while contributing little to the global issue, is at the receiving end of anticipated impacts. Adaptation will require considerable funding, well beyond what is available today through the GEF funds and other sources. These re- sources will need to be complemented with additional funding. In the meantime, several regional priorities must be carefully selected to cover a range of situations, ecosystems, ￼and economic activities affected.
2 “The Impacts of Climate Change in Latin America” Walter Vergara World Bank
3 “Projected Climate Over the Central Andes Countries caused by Global Warming” Grinia Jesús Avalos Roldán National Meteorology and Hydrology Service–SENAMHI (Peru)
4 The Impacts of Climate Change in Latin America” Walter Vergara World Bank
5 “Economic Impacts of Rapid Glacier Retreat in the Andes”PAGES 261, 264, EOS, Transactons, American Geophysical Union. Vol. 88, No. 25, 19 June 2007
6 “Economic Impacts of Rapid Glacier Retreat in the Andes”P 261, 264, EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union. Vol. 88, No. 25, 19 June 2007