Goodbye Huascaran

July 10th, 2006

Today the World Heritage Body rejected a motion calling for cuts in carbon emissions after heavy lobbying from the Bush administration.

There are 125 Unesco World Heritage sites that are under threat from global warming, some of which are in Peru, including the area I visited a couple of weeks ago – Huascaran National Park.

The World Heritage Body did not agree that the best way to protect the melting of the glaciers in the Peruvian Andes and in the Himalayas was to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming. This is despite producing a survey recently detailing the current damage caused to heritage sites by increased global temperatures.

Pastoruri, a small peak I climbed with Annett a couple of weeks ago has a glacier that has retreated by 200m in the past 10 years alone. Annett, who visited a few years ago noticed a stark difference.

Peru’s tropical glaciers are in particular danger from global warming due to the already fierce sun. Peru is home to more tropical glaciers than anywhere in the world. Peru has already lost 20% of all its glaciers, and will almost all within the next 7 years.

The natural process of melting glaciers also provides most Andean residents with their only source of water in the dry season, with the increased affect of global warming, many towns and city’s including the cities on the coast, will be without water for half of the year.

A further threat from glacial retreat is the increased risk of chunks of glacier cracking and breaking free then crushing whole cities, particularly when there are earthquakes in this earthquake-prone region. This is what happened to Yungay in 1970, which I also visited, where tens of thousands died.

It’s not all bad though, perhaps US oil money can pay for future disaster relief.

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