Monday, October 15, 2007

There Goes a Rocky Mountain Glacier

Here's another part of our heritage that the Harper Conservative Government is willing to sacrifice by resisting meaningful and binding GHG emissions targets: the Athabasca Glacier.

Image Source: Ben W. Bell, Wikipedia (click for copyright info)
"Since 1843, its toe has retreated 1.5 kilometres and more than half of its volume has vanished. In winter, the mass is now exhaling at a rate of about 15 metres a year and gasping back in summer at a pace of at least 25 metres. Scientists have detected car exhaust, DDT and other pollutants in its layers of compressed snow dating to 1932.

"Over all, less snow has been falling each winter to maintain the glacier's mass, while meltwater bleeds along blue-tinged streams earlier each summer. But there is increasingly less of it to feed the appetites of people, agriculture and industry who depend on it in Alberta, across the Prairies and the western United States.

'The Athabasca Glacier is the single best accessible example in what we are seeing happening in the world because of climate change today,' says Bob Sandford, author of The Columbia Icefield. 'The scale is monumental.'

"The signs erected by Parks Canada leading to the toe of the glacier explain that there is strong evidence that greenhouse-gas emissions caused by human activity is to blame for the incredible shrinking ice.

"'If the glacier continues to recede at its current rate, there will be very little left in 100 years,' a placard notes. 'Within the next three generations the Athabasca Glacier and the water it provides to communities across western North America may almost disappear'
"Sandford, who is Canada's chair with the United Nations International Decade for Action, Water for Life program, says every Canadian needs to visit this place. Once there, he says, they will see that if we simply carry on, there's more at stake than just the magic disappearing" (Globe & Mail story).
Ron Stevenson commented on the Globe & Mail site:
"The most ironic thing about the article... recommending to drive a car to see the very thing that we are losing faster because of green house gases" [ellipses in the original].
That's a good point, but you can get to the Athabasca Glacier by VIA RAIL from most major cities in Canada. Train travel would reduce per-visitor carbon emissions significantly. Unfortunately, the Globe & Mail neglected to mention this option.

This has been a Blog Action Day post, honouring this year's theme, Environment. Of course, this entire blog is about a major environmental issue, but it's nice to see so many other bloggers participating in this year's event, many of them taking time out of their main themes to write about environmental issues and solutions.

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