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Shrinking glaciers to spark food crisis

world Updated: Jun 12, 2010 01:20 IST
AP
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Nearly 60 million people living around the Himalayas will suffer food shortages in the coming decades as glaciers shrink and the water sources for crops dry up, a study said on Thursday.

But Dutch scientists writing in the journal Science concluded the impact would be much less than previously estimated a few years ago by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The UN report in 2007 warned that hundred of millions of people were at risk from disappearing glaciers.

The reason for the discrepancy, scientists said, is that some basins surrounding the Himalayas depend more on rainfall than melting glaciers for their water sources.

Those that do count heavily on glaciers like the Indus, Ganges and Brahamaputra basins in South Asia could see their water supplies decline by as much as 19.6 per cent by 2050.

China’s Yellow River basin, in contrast, would see a 9.5 per cent increase precipitation as monsoon patterns change due to the changing climate.

The study is one of the first to examine the impact of shrinking glaciers on the Himalayan river basins.

It will likely further fuel the debate on the degree that climate change will devastate the river basins that are mostly located in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China.

Scientists for the most part agree glaciers are melting at an accelerated rate as temperatures increase. Most scientists tie that warming directly to higher atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.