World Bank warns on Andean glaciers

Climate change threatens the complete disappearance of the glaciers in the Andes Mountains within the next 20 years, putting water, energy and food sources at risk, the Associated Press reported, citing a World Bank report on climate change in Latin America.


The study says rapid glacial retreat already has reduced by 12% the water supply to Peru’s dry coastline, which is home to 60% of the country’s population. “More than 20% of the glacial ice caps have disappeared since the 1970s,” according to Walter Vergara, a World Bank climate-change specialist.


In Bolivia, the report says, the Chacaltaya glacier has lost 82% of its surface area since 1982. Meanwhile, Ecuador’s capital, Quito, could face annual water-cost increases of up to US$100 million in the next 10 years as rising temperatures deplete nearby glaciers.


The World Bank study warns of three other major threats besides glacier disappearance: the destruction of coral reefs by warming oceans, which could cause the Caribbean basin’s ecosystem to “collapse”; wetlands devastation in the Gulf of Mexico due to deforestation, pollution and land development; and the risk of reduced rainfall drying large swathes of the Amazon jungle.


If nothing is done to combat global climate change, those threats could have profound social and economic effects, the bank said. Glacier retreat could devastate the supply of drinking water and agriculture in the Andean nations, while also affecting hydroelectric power generation, which makes up 50% of energy production in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.


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