Tag Archive for 'Global warming'

Fears grow of a tsunami in the Himalayas

Amantha Perera in Time (via @GhoshAmitav):

Melting glaciers and rising temperatures are forming a potentially destructive combination in the deep ravines of Nepal’s Himalayan foothills, and the Phulping Bridge — on the Araniko Highway linking Kathmandu with the Chinese border — is a good place to see just how dangerous the pairing can be.

A bare concrete pillar stands there, little noticed by the drivers of trucks, laden with Chinese goods, that rattle along at high speeds across the bridge, about 110 km from Kathmandu. The pillar is all that’s left of the original Phulping Bridge, which was swept away by floodwaters in July 1981. The deluge was not caused, as is common, by monsoon rain, but by the bursting of a glacial lake. The force of the raging torrent was strong enough to dislodge boulders 30 m across. They still lie in the Bhote Koshi River.

Glacial-lake outbursts, as they’re known, are not new. They occur every time the natural dams of ice or accumulated rocky deposits that hold back glacial lakes give way because of seismic activity, erosion or simple water pressure. Millions of cubic meters of meltwater can be released as a result, sometimes over the course of a few days or — far more frighteningly — in a matter of minutes. During the past century, at least 50 glacial-lake outbursts were recorded in the Himalayas, according to data maintained by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). But what is new is that the lakes are forming and growing much more quickly because the glaciers are melting faster than ever. More:

East Kolkata most vulnerable to climate change: World Bank

From Down To Earth [via @GhoshAmitav):

Click on the image to read "Climate risks and adaptation in Asian coastal megacities: A synthesis report"

Click on the image to read “Climate risks and adaptation in Asian coastal megacities: A synthesis report”

The eastern fringe of Kolkata, the fastest growing part of the city, is expected to be hit the hardest by climate change-induced impacts, and the poor will be affected the most, according to the findings of a World Bank study submitted recently to the West Bengal government.

The study reiterates an earlier prediction by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that exposure would increase in future and that by 2070 Kolkata would lead the list of top ten vulnerable cities of world in terms of population exposure. By 2050, almost 40 per cent of city area and 47 per cent of city’s population—close to 25 million—would be affected as a consequence.

The World Bank study, the first of its kind in India, states that nine wards of the city would be most vulnerable to climatic vagaries—vulnerability being assessed on the basis of topography, land use, infrastructure, social parameters and predictions on natural calamities. Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok are the other cities where similar studies have been undertaken. More:

Himalayan journal

In NYT:

Aaron Putnam, a postdoctoral research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, is a leader of an expedition to Bhutan to examine links among climate, glaciers, water resources and society in the Himalayas.

Follow his journey at scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com

Wednesday, Sept. 26

The day after the arrival of our colleague Scott Travis in Thimpu, Bhutan, we gathered our gear and loaded a small bus that would convey us to the beginning of our trek into Rinchen Zoe La. We traveled for about 12 hours along twisting, narrow gravel roads that hugged the most precipitous topography I have ever seen.

Along the way we ascended high mountain passes and ducked into the low, humid rain forests that characterize the impressive climatic and ecological gradients compressed into the small country of Bhutan. more:

 

New twist to Himalayan glacier row

Jacob P. Koshy in Mint:

In what could revive controversy over the state of glaciers in the Himalayas, researchers associated with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and the government-run Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology suggest that aerosols such as soot—tiny particles that are often the result of insufficiently burnt gases—may be playing a key role in affecting glacier health.

Although previous studies, too, have suggested such a link, they relied entirely on satellite imagery. The latest study, part of a department of science and technology-funded project, is based on actual physical measurements of glaciers and, according to experts, considered an accurate picture of the contraction and expansion of glaciers.

The finding suggests that the link between contracting glaciers and climate change is far more complex than has been assumed, although the experts who conducted the study emphasize that the finding is “preliminary and more observations are required” to confirm it.

It may mean that neither the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which views greenhouse gases (GHGs) as being chiefly responsible for global warming that accelerates the melting of glaciers, nor the Indian government, which holds that the phenomenon in the Himalayas cannot be definitely linked to man-made causes, are entirely correct in their assessments. More:

Siachen tension and Pakistan floods

From ‘Obama’s War‘ by American journalist Bob Woodward reported in The Indian Express:

Holbrooke angle: global warming

Months before the floods in Pakistan, US special envoy for Af-Pak Richard Holbrooke had said the presence of Indian and Pakistani troops in Siachen was resulting in fast melting of ice that would soon flood the rivers in their countries, claims the book. Holbrooke made the remarks at a meeting chaired by Obama.

“In one discussion about the tension between Pakistan and India, Holbrooke introduced a new angle. ‘Theirs is a global warming dimension of this struggle, Mr President’,” he said. “His words baffled many in the room,” writes Woodward. “There are tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops encamped on the glaciers in the Himalayas that feed the rivers into Pakistan and India,” he said. “Their encampments are melting the glaciers… There’s a chance that river valley in Pakistan and perhaps even India could be flooded,” Holbrooke had said. “After the meeting, there were several versions of one question: Was Holbrooke kidding?” the book says. “He was not.”

ISI chief told CIA his ‘rogues’ carried out Mumbai attack

From the Indian Express story on ‘Obama’s War‘ by American journalist Bob Woodward:

Less than a month after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s spy agency chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha had admitted before the CIA that the terror strikes had ISI links but claimed it was not an “authorised” operation but carried out by “rogue” elements, according to a new book.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) later received reliable intelligence that the ISI was directly involved in the training for Mumbai, says the book entitled ‘Obama’s War’ written by investigative American journalist Bob Woodward.

According to the book, the then President George W Bush during his meetings with his top aides had said the terrorist attack on Mumbai was just like 9/11.

“President Bush called his national security team into the Oval Office as Mumbai sorted through the blood and rubble. You guys get planning and do what you have to do to prevent a war between Pakistan and India, Bush told his aides. The last thing we need right now is a war between two nuclear-power states,” Woodward says in his book which hit the stands on Monday. More:

Pakistan’s floods: is the worst still to come?

From Nature:

It is over two weeks since the floods began in Pakistan, and the rains are still falling. Already termed the worst flooding to hit Pakistan for 80 years, this deluge has affected millions of people, and so far over 1,600 have died.

With the impacts of the flooding likely to continue well after the flood waters have retreated, Nature examines the escalating humanitarian disaster.

What is the main cause of the intense rainfall?

It is weather, not climate change, that is to blame, according to meteorologists. An unusual jet stream in the upper atmosphere from the north is intensifying rainfall in an area that is already in the midst of the summer monsoon (see animation showing the growing extent of the flood waters). “What sets this year apart from others is the intensity and localisation of the rainfall,” says Ramesh Kumar, a meteorologist at the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India. “Four months of rainfall has fallen in just a couple of days.”

Has human activity exacerbated the flooding?

Yes. The high population growth rate in Pakistan has contributed to a rapid deterioration of the country’s natural environment. This includes extensive deforestation and the building of dams for irrigation and power generation across tributaries of the Indus river. Years of political unrest have also left their mark, and flood waters are transporting land mines, posing an extra danger to the relief mission. More:

Little big country

The island of Male, capital of The Maldives

The island of Male -- a densely packed conglomerate of buildings -- is the capital of The Maldives, an archipelago of nearly 2,000 islands spread over 90,000 sq km. Photo: Kunda Dixit

By Kunda Dixit:

Last week, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed announced that his country would phase out all ozone-depleting chemicals by 2020, ten years ahead of what is required of his country under the Montreal Protocol. In his speech, he thanked his predecessor President Gayoom for having taken the lead in climate change issues and putting the Maldives on the map.

This would be unheard of in Nepal: a leader complimenting a bitter political rival, especially someone who imprisoned and tortured and hounded him into exile.

But everything about ‘Anni’, as Maldivians affectionately call their president, shows that he is probably the only leader in our part of the world who hasn’t let the trappings of office get to him.

After giving his speech on Thursday in the resort island of Bandos, Nasheed stepped out for refreshments. He waited in line for tea, there were no sycophants and sidekicks trying to obsequiously usher him to the head of the queue. He waited like everyone else, and everyone left him alone because they knew he didn’t like the fuss. More:

What’s happened to the seasons?

From temperate England to tropical India, the cycle of the seasons is fundamental to life. But lately they seem to have changed their patterns, with profound consequences. John Parker at Intelligent Life:

In the Indian state of Orissa, the black-headed oriole is the messenger of spring. It appears in the villages in January to greet the season’s start and flies away to the forest in March, signalling its end. Richard Mahapatra’s mother used the oriole’s fleeting appearance to teach her son about the natural rhythms of the world. “People like my mother remember six distinct seasons,” says Mahapatra, an environmental writer who now lives in New Delhi. After spring (basanta) and summer (grishma) came the rainy season (barsha). Between autumn (sarata) and winter (sisira) came a dewy period called hemanta. Each season lasted two months and the appearance of each was marked by religious festivals. “She had precise dates for their arrival and taught me how to look for signs of each.”

Damselflies gathered thickly a week before the rains began. Markers of the monsoon, they did not cluster at other times. The open-billed stork alighted on the tamarind tree on Akshaya Trutiya, a festival which usually fell in April or May and traditionally marked the start of the agricultural year. Farmers said that if you forgot the day, the bird would remind you, so predictable was its arrival. In the Mahapatra family’s garden, the nesting of bats in the peepal tree marked the onset of winter; when the tree flowered, it was midsummer.

Lately the heralds of the seasons have become unreliable. Damselflies swarm not only in the rainy season but in winter, the driest time of year. The stork no longer appears just on Akshaya Trutiya, but at other times, too. Villagers hear the song of the oriole in summer and the rainy season, not just spring. And this, Mahapatra says, is because spring is no longer a distinct season. Instead of six periods of equal length, Orissa now has two, a brief rainy season and a burning eight-month summer. Winter is a mild transition between the two, and spring, autumn and hemanta have been relegated to little-noticed interludes of a mere week or so.

“When I return home”, says Mahapatra, “my mother mourns the death of the seasons. More:

The man who came in from the cold

An account of how a retired geologist took apart the alarmist climate claims of a Nobel Prize winning organisation. Ashish K. Mishra in Forbes India:

V ijay Kumar Raina is amused. The 76-year old retired geologist who lives in Sector 17, Panchkula in Haryana has been blitzkrieged by the media, government, world scientist community and the average citizen since December 2009.

Why? Because he blew the lid off the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), headed by the charismatic R.K. Pachauri, claims that the Himalayan glaciers will be extinct by 2035.

Raina’s life has taken a complete turnaround in the last six months. Like most retirees, Raina had followed a routine: Early morning walks, discussing politics, attending to his plants and working religiously on his book devoted to ‘tracing the work done on Indian glaciers’. More

Disputed island in Bay of Bengal disappears into sea

From The Independent:

Map: The Telegraph, Kolkata

A low-lying island in a sprawling mangrove delta which has been disputed by India and Bangladesh for almost 30 years will be squabbled over no more. It has disappeared beneath the waves.

In what experts say is an alarming indication of the danger posed by rising sea levels brought about by global warming, New Moore Island has become totally submerged. “It is definitely because of global warming,” said Professor Sugata Hazra of Jadavpur University in Kolkata. “The sea level has been rising at twice the previous rate in the years between 2002 and 2009. The sea level is rising in accordance with rising temperatures.”

Known as New Moore Island in India, and South Talpatti in Bangladesh, the uninhabited outcrop in the Sundarbans delta region measured barely two miles in length and one-and-a-half miles in width. Yet the island had been angrily disputed by the two countries, almost ever since Bangladesh secured independence from Pakistan in 1971. More:

Floating golf course to be built in Maldives

Andrew Buncombe in The Independent:

The island nation of the Maldives, confronted by rising oceans and a landscape that is just a few feet above sea level, is poised to build a floating golf course and convention centre in what could be the first of a series of futuristic off-shore developments designed to confront the threat of global warming.

The country’s government has signed an agreement with a Dutch firm to investigate the feasibility of developing a number of facilities that would be located among the 26 main atolls. It is likely the company, Dutch Docklands, will also look into the possibility of building floating homes. It has previously built floating islands in Dubai.

“The methods and procedures developed by the company for floating developments reduce the impact on underwater life, and minimise the changes to coastal morphology,” said a statement issued by the office of President Mohamed Nasheed. More:

A climate-change chameleon

It’s hard to tell whether New Delhi really understands the economic cost of fighting ‘global warming.’ Mary Kissel from New Delhi in the Wall Street Journal:

“The climate world is divided into three: the climate atheists, the climate agnostics, and the climate evangelicals. I’m a climate agnostic.”

A direct—some would say brash—man with a penetrating stare, it’s hard to believe India’s Environment and Forests Minister, Jairam Ramesh, is agnostic about anything. This is the man who dressed down Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year when she pushed for India to adopt binding emissions targets. He was the first politician of a major nation to question the United Nations’ claim that the Himalayan glaciers were melting at a rapid pace. And he’s spearheaded his country’s very own climate-change research institute—a direct challenge to the U.N.’s now-discredited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

That record makes Mr. Ramesh one of the few policy makers in the world in a position to push a new, more economically rational approach to climate change—and debate the politics of it, too. It helps that he isn’t media-shy. And like many Indian men, Mr. Ramesh has a penchant for the dramatic: “You have unlimited time!” he tells me, hands outstretched, as we settle down to a chat in his darkened office, with a single spotlight shining on the minister himself. More:

‘…but the point is, glaciers are receding’

With the row on glaciers, the heat is on R.K. Pachauri, TERI chief and IPCC chairman. Pachauri speaks of Copenhagen and answers questions on whether the controversy has dented IPCC’s image. From the Indian Express:

You are one of the most visible of climate change activists. Does that open you up for a lot of personal attacks, the kind of what we saw recently in The Daily Telegraph? Is that a problem?

Somebody gave me a piece of advice which I believe in firmly: if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. The fact is, I am visible, I am vocal and I am going to be even more so. If that attracts the kind of nonsense, the kind of underhand lies that people pitch against me, I am prepared to take it. I have no hesitation in continuing with what I am doing. I believe society is enlightened and intelligent enough to be able to separate the truth from falsehood. When it comes to pursuing what I believe in, I am a fighter to the end. I will not stop. More

Creating glaciers out of thin air

Andrew Buncombe in The Independent:

It was in Ladakh, confronted by receding glaciers – currently at the centre of an increasingly bitter dispute between scientists and Delhi – that Chewang Norphel, a government engineer, hit upon an idea to use nature to give the locals a helping hand with growing more food.

Seeing how much fresh water was wasted during the winter – as villagers left their taps running to prevent them freezing solid – and noticing the way that they stored snow on shaded areas of the mountain, he decided to create his own artificial glaciers.

That was more than a decade ago. Now, with funding from the Indian army – which is keen to maintain the support of local people in a strategically sensitive area close to the border with China – Mr Norphel has created 10 artificial glaciers and is planning more. More

The mystery of the non-disappearing Himalayan glaciers

The story is getting curiouser and curiouser. Someone called it “Wateragate 2.”

First there was a story in The Telegraph,London, questioning the business interests of Dr Rajendra Pachauri, head of the New Delhi-based The Energy Research Institute, chairman of the IPCC (the UN’s Inter­governmental Panel on Climate Change).

It accused him of “making a fortune from his links with ‘carbon trading’ companies.” Click here to read the story: Questions over business deals of UN climate change guru Dr Rajendra Pachauri.

Dr Pachauri described the report as “a pack of lies”.

A few days later The Telegraph ran another story: The questions Dr Pachauri still has to answer:

At the least it seems that Dr Pachauri’s position as the world’s “top climate official” has been earning a very substantial income for the institute of which he is director-general; and the only way to avoid further questioning must now be for both Dr Pachauri and Teri to come out into the open over all those issues that remain obscure.

Then The Sunday Times ran a story: World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown:

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world’s glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC’s 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

A followup story in Bloomberg quotes Dr Pachauri as saying that research by IPCC suggesting Himalayan glaciers may disappear by 2035 “needs to be investigated anew…”

An award-winning United Nations panel is re-examining its research about how fast Himalaya’s glaciers are melting, the top UN climate-change scientist said.

Research by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggesting Himalayan glaciers may disappear by 2035 needs to be investigated anew following a report in the London-based Times newspaper that flawed data may have been used, said Rajendra K. Pachauri, head of the Nobel prize-winning group.

“We are looking at the issue and will be able to comment on the report after examining the facts. The science doesn’t change: Glaciers are melting across the globe and those in the Himalayas are no different,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re not changing anything till we make an assessment.”

Below, from Richard North‘s (co-author of the first story in The Telegraph) post titled “Pachauri: there’s money in them glaciers,” at EUReferendum:

With the case for more research thus established, Pachauri’s institute, TERI, approached the wealthy Carnegie Corporation of New York through a consortium led by the Global Centre for funding to carry out precisely the work to which his own “independent” report had drawn attention.

In November 2008, they were successful, being awarded a $500,000 grant for “research, analysis and training on water-related security and humanitarian challenges to South Asia posed by melting Himalaya glaciers.” This helped Dr Pachauri set up the TERI Glaciology team, putting at its head now professor Syed Iqbal Hasnain.

World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown

From The Sunday Times:

A warning that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world’s glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC’s 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. More:

Climate guru Pachauri under a cloud

United Nations’ top climate change czar Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri has been accused of making a “fortune” from his links with “carbon trading” companies dependent on the world body’s policy recommendations.

In a long article, The Sunday Telegraph, London, has cast serious aspersions on Pachauri’s “business deals” and alleged that he had “established an astonishing worldwide portfolio of business interests with bodies which have been investing billions of dollars in organizations dependent on the IPCC’s policy recommendations.”

Pachauri heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

In a rejoinder sent to the newspaper seeking an apology, Pachauri termed the allegations “a pack of lies” spread by climate sceptics, who were also behind the leaked emails (dubbed climategate scandal). “The Telegraph needs to appreciate that there are millions in India who don’t get enough food not have electricity and therefore, India cannot take emission cuts,” he said.

Below, the Sunday Telegraph story by Christopher Booker and Richard North:

Questions over business deals of UN climate change guru Dr Rajendra Pachauri

It is remarkable how only very recently has the staggering scale of Dr Pachauri’s links to so many of these concerns come to light, inevitably raising questions as to how the world’s leading ‘climate official’ can also be personally involved in so many organisations which stand to benefit from the IPCC’s recommendations.

The issue of Dr Pachauri’s potential conflict of interest was first publicly raised last Tuesday when, after giving a lecture at Copenhagen University, he was handed a letter by two eminent ‘climate sceptics’. One was the Stephen Fielding, the Australian Senator who sparked the revolt which recently led to the defeat of his government’s ‘cap and trade scheme’. The other, from Britain, was Lord Monckton, a longtime critic of the IPCC’s science, who has recently played a key part in stiffening opposition to a cap and trade bill in the US Senate. More:

Pack of lies, says Pachauri

In an interview with the Times of India, Pachauri says: ‘‘These are a pack of lies from people who are getting desperate. They want to go after the guy whose voice is being heard. I haven’t pocketed a single penny from my association with companies and institutes.” More:

Signs of change in the Himalayas as Copenhagen summit begins

John Vidal in Jomsom, Nepal in the Guardian:

On a 1,000-mile journey from the world’s greatest water source in the Himalayas, down rivers and then by train through Nepal, India and Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal, we saw evidence of profound changes in weather patterns right across south Asia. Wherever we went we were told of significant temperature increases, and found governments slowly waking up to the threat of climate change and communities having to respond in any way they could to erratic rains and more serious droughts, floods and storms.

The starting point was Jomsom, a small town in the Kali Gandaki valley, 2,300 metres high and at the heart of the Annapurna range. This remote town, which saw its first ever car last year, has experienced no snowfall this winter. The temperature soared way above normal to 27C, and only fell to 13C, against a usual -4C, while the snowline has risen above 5,000 metres. The Gandaki river, fed by 1,200 glaciers, flows to the Ganges and on to Bangladesh.

“The temperature is higher, so there’s less snow, and less meltwater in spring to plant crops. People have no need to come down from the mountains in winter. They can grow chillies and peppers now,” said Sunil Pant, a Nepalese MP. “But now they cannot grow wheat or staple foods.” More:

Nepal Cabinet to meet on Everest

From Reuters:

Nepal’s cabinet plans to meet at the base camp of Mount Everest this month to highlight the impact of global warming on the Himalayas ahead of next month’s U.N. negotiations on climate change, a minister said on Monday.

The base camp is located about 5,300 meters (17,400 feet) up the 8,850 meter (29,035 feet) mountain and is the point from where climbers to the Everest summit begin their ascent.

“The cabinet meeting is meant to draw the attention to the adverse impact of climate change to the Himalayas including Sagarmatha,” Forest Minister Deepak Bohara told Reuters, using the Nepali name of the mountain.

The Maldives held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting last month, in a symbolic cry for help over rising sea levels that threaten the Indian Ocean archipelago’s existence. More:

The Iceman

artificial_glacierClick here to see how it works

In Ladakh, a man is creating artificial glaciers. Namita Kohli from Leh in the Hindustan Times:

icemanIn Leh, the largest district in India, you don’t have to look far to confirm that climate change is here.

In eco-activist Chewang Norphel’s office, just beyond the Leh market, the air inside is warm enough to make you start peeling off the layers – even in September, just before the onset of winter.

“It’s definitely warm for this time of year,” says Norphel (74), a retired civil engineer. “In the past two or three decades, the weather has changed a lot. Instead of snowfall of several feet, we get just a thin layer. And some glaciers have receded by about 2,000 feet.”

Outside the window of Norphel’s office is one of the region’s few remaining snow-capped mountains.

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), about 7 per cent of the ice of the Himalayan glaciers is melting away each year.

The report predicts that these glaciers may disappear entirely as early as 2030.

The ramifications are immense.

Half a billion people in the Himalaya-Hindukush region (which includes parts of seven other countries), and a quarter billion people further downstream rely on glacial meltwater for irrigation, domestic supply and even hydropower. More:

Climate change — Bhutan

Nature reporter Anjali Nayar hiked for 21 days in Northern Bhutan to find out how this tiny Himalayan nation is dealing with rapidly melting glaciers.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kI_-Q47Sfc

Charting change is real

glacier

Kunda Dixit in Himal Southasian:

Namgye Chumbi was weeding his potato garden in the village of Phakding in Nepal’s Khumbu region below Mount Everest on the morning of 4 August 1985. Because of the monsoon season, there were not too many trekkers hiking up the trail towards Namche Bazaar. It was a brilliantly clear day, unusual for the monsoon season, and he was working by the banks of the Dudh Kosi River. True to its name, the river was milky white and frothing, as the water tumbled noisily over boulders. Yet around two in the afternoon, the river suddenly became strangely silent. The water level went down, and Namgye sensed danger. Much in the same way as coastal dwellers saw the sea recede before the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Dudh Kosi was about to reveal its terrifying avatar. “I noticed that the white water had turned muddy brown, and in the distance I heard a thundering sound like an approaching helicopter,” Namgye recalls. “I looked upstream and saw this huge wall of dark brown water approaching very fast.” Namgye indicates the level of the river with his right hand, and raises his left hand high over his head like a cobra to show what he saw.

There was no time to think. Namgye dropped everything and began to run up the mountain. His wife, Sherkima, had more presence of mind, and picked up their two young children, Hira and Tsering, and followed her husband. They reached a ledge as the thunderous flood raced beneath them, lapping at their heels. The ground was shaking like an earthquake, and the sound was deafening. Namgye and Sherkima lost their house and everything in it. If they had been just a few seconds slower, they would have lost their lives as well. Their millet farm upstream was cut in half, as the river changed its course and started flowing through its terraces. Thereafter, the family built a hut, and other families helped them with food. “We only had the clothes we were wearing, but at least we were all alive,” he says. Nearly 25 years later, Namgye has built a new house higher up the mountain, where his married children and four grandchildren today live together. The Dudh Kosi, meanwhile, is still frothing white as it flows past the farm. Namgye points out one boulder the size of his house that was brought down by that terrible flash flood. More:

[Image: Kunda Dixit]

Maldives Cabinet holds underwater meeting

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKoch_iEos8

From AFP: Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who staged the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting at the weekend, is emerging as the global stuntman in the battle against climate change.

Nasheed, 42, dived with his cabinet to the sea bottom Saturday in an effort to press December’s UN summit in Copenhagen to cap carbon emissions that cause global warming, threatening low-lying nations such as the Maldives.

“We should come out of Copenhagen with a deal that will ensure that everyone will survive,” said the president as he bobbed in the shimmering Indian Ocean after the meeting. More

Can this man save the Maldives – and the rest of the world – from the rising seas?

Mohamed Nasheed, the President of the Maldives. Photo: the Guardian

Mohamed Nasheed, the President of the Maldives. Photo: the Observor

Robin McKie in the Observor:

On a humid, airless night last March, Mohamed Nasheed – the 42-year-old president of the Maldives – opened up his palace in Male for an unusual public event. A projection screen was hung at the back of a ballroom and brightly coloured chairs were arranged in rows. Then the audience was shown in: lawyers, cabinet members, presidential advisers and journalists, along with a sizeable chunk of Maldives society.

Nasheed, dressed in an open-neck striped shirt and dark chinos, sat in the front row. The lights dimmed and scenes of environmental mayhem unfolded on the screen: Sydney Opera House in flames, ice sheets crashing into the seas, deserts spreading and forests burning.

Thus the people of the Maldives had their first glimpse of Franny Armstrong’s documentary, The Age of Stupid, in which Pete Postlethwaite plays the last man left alive in a post-apocalyptic, climate-fried world.

The film is scrappy but passionate, a classic example of agit-prop cinema. But in the dripping night heat of Male, The Age of Stupid had a very different effect on its audience than it has had in the west. Its message seemed direct and immediate, a call to arms. Nor is it hard to understand such emotion. The islands that make up the Maldives are threatened with complete inundation, probably by the end of the century, as ice sheets melt and sea levels rise catastrophically, thanks to global warming. More

Maldives cabinet meets underwater

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEdQiWnl1Gg

From the Independent:

The president of the Maldives is desperate for the world to know how seriously his government takes the threat of climate change and rising sea levels to the survival of his country. He wants his ministers to know as well.

To this end, Mohamed Nasheed has organised an underwater cabinet meeting and told all his ministers to get in training for the sub-aqua session. Six metres beneath the surface, the ministers will ratify a treaty calling on other countries to cut greenhouse emissions.

Ahead of the meeting, scheduled for 17 October, cabinet members have been squeezing into wet-suits and practising their underwater skills. The President was not present at the first session, held over the weekend, because he is already a qualified diver. More:

New script for India on climate change

India is trying to reposition itself as a “deal maker,” not a “deal breaker” on climate issues. From the New York Times:

When the United Nations convened its summit meeting on climate change last month, China and the United States, the two most important countries at the negotiating table, hewed to mostly familiar scripts, making promises without making too many specific commitments. Less familiar was the script followed by the third most important country at the table, India.

India’s public stance on climate change is usually predictable – predictably obstinate and unwilling to compromise, at least according to many industrialized nations. But at the United Nations, India’s delegation toned down its usual criticisms of the industrialized world, presented new plans to reduce India’s emissions and sought to reposition the country, in the words of the environment minister, as a “deal maker,” not a “deal breaker.” More:

Charting change

From the Himalaya to Male, there are clear signs that climate change is real. Kunda Dixit at Himal Southasian:

himalayan_glacierNamgye Chumbi was weeding his potato garden in the village of Phakding in Nepal’s Khumbu region below Mount Everest on the morning of 4 August 1985. Because of the monsoon season, there were not too many trekkers hiking up the trail towards Namche Bazaar. It was a brilliantly clear day, unusual for the monsoon season, and he was working by the banks of the Dudh Kosi River. True to its name, the river was milky white and frothing, as the water tumbled noisily over boulders. Yet around two in the afternoon, the river suddenly became strangely silent. The water level went down, and Namgye sensed danger. Much in the same way as coastal dwellers saw the sea recede before the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Dudh Kosi was about to reveal its terrifying avatar. “I noticed that the white water had turned muddy brown, and in the distance I heard a thundering sound like an approaching helicopter,” Namgye recalls. “I looked upstream and saw this huge wall of dark brown water approaching very fast.” Namgye indicates the level of the river with his right hand, and raises his left hand high over his head like a cobra to show what he saw.

There was no time to think. Namgye dropped everything and began to run up the mountain. His wife, Sherkima, had more presence of mind, and picked up their two young children, Hira and Tsering, and followed her husband. They reached a ledge as the thunderous flood raced beneath them, lapping at their heels. The ground was shaking like an earthquake, and the sound was deafening. Namgye and Sherkima lost their house and everything in it. If they had been just a few seconds slower, they would have lost their lives as well. Their millet farm upstream was cut in half, as the river changed its course and started flowing through its terraces. Thereafter, the family built a hut, and other families helped them with food. “We only had the clothes we were wearing, but at least we were all alive,” he says. Nearly 25 years later, Namgye has built a new house higher up the mountain, where his married children and four grandchildren today live together. The Dudh Kosi, meanwhile, is still frothing white as it flows past the farm. Namgye points out one boulder the size of his house that was brought down by that terrible flash flood. More:

[Image: Kunda Dixit]

Also read the interview with the Maldives President

The great Indian darkness

Grace Boyle at the Independent:

lampI visited some villages in rural Karnataka this week where people are living without electricity. After nightfall we drove to Mahime Village in Uttara Kannada, a coastal district of Karnataka State and left the car at the side of the road. On foot we picked our way along a dirt path through the forest, splashed through a creek and uphill until we reached a house. The muted blue of the mud walls glimmered in the yellow light of the small kerosene lamps as we picked leeches off our feet and Sarojini Rama Naik, the wife of the house, burnt them with embers from the fire.

Sarojini and her husband, Rama Timma Naik, have lived here for nearly 40 years, fitting their daily schedule into the daylight hours and eating their evening meal by kerosene lamplight before going to sleep at around 8pm. The government provides everyone in the area with three litres of kerosene per month, subsidised to a rate of ten rupees per litre, but as this isn’t enough for their needs Rama travels to Gerusoppa Town, 10km away, once a month to pick up an extra six litres on the black market, at a higher rate. As the express buses don’t stop at their hamlet – Vatehalla – the journey takes him a whole day, on which he must set other business aside. The people in the village who do have electricity don’t always need their government-issued kerosene, so he asks the ration-shopkeeper to deal him the extra.

Mahime village consists of scattered hamlets, like most of the villages in this rural area, and of the 300 families the village is home to about 65 are living without access to electricity. It’s not an uncommon living arrangement, easily overlooked with the district website’s claim that “all towns and villages have electricity facilities in the District.” More:

Maldives’ dilemma

It cannot be carbon neutral without killing tourism. From the Times:

In the 1960s a United Nations report warned the Maldives that, sadly, it was unlikely to attract tourists.

Not much grows on lumps of coral in the Indian Ocean apart from coconuts and fish, the report pointed out: the Maldives is largely dependent on imports and the nearest ports are hundreds of miles away. Few of its 1,000-odd scattered islands even had electricity. Yet within ten years, the Maldives had established the reputation it has now, as a holiday paradise for honeymooners, scuba divers and the super-rich.

On Tuesday, the tiny country of 350,000 people once again showed it can punch above its weight. The Maldivian President, Mohamed Nasheed, shared a billing with Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at the United Nations General Assembly, where he pleaded the cause of small island states at risk from climate change. In many news outlets, it was Nasheed who made the headlines.

In many respects the Maldives has always been the little nation that could. Despite its minuscule population and strategic location, it has never been colonised (it peacefully dismissed the British, who had made it a protectorate, in 1965). It has retained its unique language and script, and hung on to its cultural identity while incorporating Islam, elements from African religions, black magic, Indian cooking and the occasional British naval tradition. In 2008 it made a peaceful transition to democracy and was hailed as an example to other, more troubled Muslim nations. More: