Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

In Peru’s Deserts, Melting Glaciers Are a Godsend (Until They’re Gone)

Accelerating glacial melt in the Andes caused by climate change has set off a gold rush downstream, letting the desert bloom. But as the ice vanishes, the vast farms below may do the same. [great photography]

NYT,  NICHOLAS CASEY  27 Nov 17  Photographs by TOMAS MUNITA VIRU, Peru — The desert blooms now. Blueberries grow to the size of Ping-Pong balls in nothing but sand. Asparagus fields cross dunes, disappearing over the horizon.

The desert produce is packed and shipped to places like Denmark and Delaware. Electricity and water have come to villages that long had neither. Farmers have moved here from the mountains, seeking new futures on all the irrigated land.

It might sound like a perfect development plan, except for one catch: The reason so much water flows through this desert is that an icecap high up in the mountains is melting away.

And the bonanza may not last much longer.

“If the water disappears, we’d have to go back to how it was before,” said Miguel Beltrán, a 62-year-old farmer who worries what will happen when water levels fall. “The land was empty and people went hungry.”

In this part of Peru, climate change has been a blessing — but it may become a curse. In recent decades, accelerating glacial melt in the Andes has enabled a gold rush downstream, contributing to the irrigation and cultivation of more than 100,000 acres of land since the 1980s.

Yet the boon is temporary. The flow of water is already declining as the glacier vanishes, and scientists estimate that by 2050 much of the icecap will be gone.

Throughout the 20th century, enormous government development projects, from Australia to Africa, have diverted water to arid land. Much of Southern California was dry scrubland until canals brought water, inciting a storm of land speculation and growth — a time known as the “Water Wars” depicted in the 1974 film “Chinatown.”

Yet climate change now threatens some of these ambitious undertakings, reducing lakes, diminishing aquifers and shrinking glaciers that feed crops. Here in Peru, the government irrigated the desert and turned it into farmland through an $825 million project that, in a few decades, could be under serious threat.

“We’re talking about the disappearance of frozen water towers that have supported vast populations,” said Jeffrey Bury, a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz who has spent years studying the effects of glacier melt on Peruvian agriculture. “That is the big picture question related to climate change right now.”…….https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/world/americas/peru-climate-change.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

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November 26, 2017 - Posted by | General News

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