Thursday, May 28, 2015

Melting Away

Good-bye to the snows of Santa Marta. (El Tiempo)
For thousands of years, they crowned Colombian peaks: Anomalous white caps in the heart of the tropics. But, in a few decades, they will all be gone.

Colombia has about six remaining glaciers, depending on how you count them, the best known being in the Cocuy range and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. In the mid-1800s, only a geological blink of an eye ago, it had about 17. Over the past 165 years, Colombia has lost almost 90% of its glacier-covered area. During the three decades between 1980 and 2010, 57% of the glaciers disappeared.

The disappearance of Colombia's glaciers, which is part of a trend also including Asia, Africa and the rest of tropical South America, does not have only environmental impacts: it is also eliminating important tourist attractions and cultural sites for indigenous peoples. For farmers, glaciers store water during the rainy season and release it slowly during dry months. Without glaciers, the rainwater rushes down quickly, carrying away topsoil and destroying the land.

The glaciers' demise is being caused by climate change. To deny that the climate is changing is to deny reality. And the overwhelming majority of scientists agree that human activity, by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is changing the climate.

Loss of area by Colombian glaciers, between 1950 and 2010. (Graph: IDEAM)

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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