by Stephanie Kumar
In June 2013, there was a Himalayan tsunami that killed thousands of people. According to figures provided by the Uttarakhand government, 5,700 people were “presumed dead”; the floods wiped out the entire Hindu town of Kedarnath. Prior studies say dozens of houses were smashed and hundreds of religious pilgrims were swept away when a lake above the eighth century Kedarnath Temple burst its natural dam of loosely packed glacial sediment, sending a deluge of water onto the town.
The Global South is facing danger and destruction from climate change and global warming. The Koch brothers refuse to acknowledge the harm and death their actions are causing worldwide. IFG’s allies in the Global South are victims of carbon pollution for which they are not at all responsible. Global warming caused the Himalayan Tsunami of 2013 that killed thousands. The people of the Himalayas are paying the price for the pollution created by Koch Industries. IFG is focused on these men because Koch is today’s top obstacle to urgent US action needed to unblock an ambitious global agreement that actually avoids a climate catastrophe.
In addition to creating direct environmental destruction—as documented in IFG’s report, “Faces Behind a Global Crisis“—Charles and David Koch direct a web of financing that fuels conservative special interest groups and think-tanks focused on fighting environmental regulation, opposing clean energy legislation, and easing limits on industrial pollution.
Koch Industries, Inc. is based in Wichita, Kansas, and has an extensive network of subsidiaries involved in industries ranging from the manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, chemicals, energy, fiber, intermediates and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, and ranching, to finance commodities trading and other kinds of investments.
The money is frequently funneled through one of three “charitable” foundations set up by the Kochs: the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation; the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation; and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation. The Koch brothers are money-hungry men who will not let anything stand in their way.
The influx of black clouds and departure of white snow in the cold desert are concrete signs of how climate change is invading the lives of the people in Ladakh communities. The polluters continue to pollute, because they are insulated from the impact of their own actions. While others thousands of miles away are poisoned by the brunt of greenhouse gas pollution.
Climate refugees are already being created in the Himalaya in villages such as Rongjuk. As one of the displaced women said, “when we see the black clouds, we feel afraid.”
In terms of numbers of people impacted, climate change in the region is the most far-reaching.
The Himalaya are the lifesource for nearly half of humanity. The mountains of snow have been called the Third Pole, as they are the third largest body of snow on our planet after the Antarctic and Arctic. The melting of snow in the Arctic and Antarctic due to global warming and climate change is frequently reported. 10% of the earth’s landmass is currently covered with snow, with 84.16% in the Antarctic, 13.9% in Greenland, 0.77% in the Himalaya, 0.51% in North America, 0.37% in Africa, 0.15% in South America, 0.06% in Europe. Outside the polar region, Himalaya has the maximum concentration of glaciers as well. 9.04% of the Himalaya is covered with glaciers, with an additional 30-40% area being covered with snow. The glaciers of the Himalaya are what make it the Third Pole. Glacial runoff in the Himalayas is the largest source of fresh water for northern India and provides more than half the water to the Ganga. Glacial runoff is also the source of the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Irrawady and the Yellow and Yantze rivers.
Himalayan Tsunami story:
The tragedy was directly caused by global warming, which creates glacial lakes of meltwater, and in turn glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF). As the volume of water increases, so does the pressure on the dams of ice or glacial sediment, called moraine, which hold the lake in place on the side of the mountain. Once that pressure reaches the tipping point, heavy rainfall from a sudden cloudburst, a landslide, or an earthquake can breach the dam, sending a deadly torrent of ice, rock and water down on the people living below; resulting in devastation.
In the weeks following the disaster, tens of thousands of residents, tourists and religious pilgrims were evacuated across the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, and almost 6,000 still presumed missing. The chief minister told Reuters, “Around 200 of my bridges have been washed away, nearly 5,000 roads damaged, connectivity to 4,300 villages snapped, electricity and water supplies disrupted, telephone lines collapsed.” Pradeep Mool, who monitors the risk of glacial lake outbursts for ICIMOD suggested that many more “accidents” are in sight, especially as temperatures continue to rise: “When you talk about glacial lakes, in Nepal alone there are more than 1,400 lakes, and if you talk about the whole Himalayan Range there are about 20,000 glacial lakes.”
More than 200 of the lakes have been classified as potentially dangerous, among them a 250-acre lake holding 5 billion gallons of melt water high in the mountains of the northeast Indian state of Sikkim could harm people living hundreds of miles downstream. Countless other areas around the region face similar threats. Along with the new meltwater, increasing frequent cloudbursts endanger the villages and cities of both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where there are some 250 glacial lakes above population centers like the tourist town of Manali.
In Ladakh, the northern most region of India, all life depends on snow. It is a high altitude desert with only 50mm of rainfall. Ladakh’s water comes from the melting of snow, from the snow that falls to the ground and provides the moisture for farms and pastures, and the snow of the glaciers that fuels the streams that are the lifeline of the small settlements. Snow has supported human survival in Ladakh for centuries.
Climate Change Impact:
Climate change is changing Ladakh drastically. Less snow is falling, so there is less moisture for growing crops. In many villages, farming will soon end permanently without a water source. Reduced snowfall also means less snow in glaciers, and less streamflow. The shorter period of snowfall prevents the snow from turning into hard ice crystals, so more of the glacier melts during the summer. Climate change has also led to more rain rather than snow, falling even at higher altitudes, further accelerating the melting of glaciers.
Heavy rainfall, which was previously unknown in the high altitude desert, has become especially frequent, and has had horrible consequences for the unprepared communities. Flash floods have already washed away countless homes and fields, trees and livestock.
India has 5,243 glaciers that cover a span of 37,579 km2 and contain 142.88 km2 of ice. The Gangotri glacier, the source of the Ganga, is receding at 20-23 miles per year. Millain glacier is receding at 30m/yr, while Dukrian is retreating at 15-20m/yr. The receding of glaciers has accelerated immensely with global warming. The rate of the retreat of the Gangotri glacier has tripled in just the last three years. The impact this is having on the rate of glacial lake overflow and thereby GLOFs is difficult to imagine.
Climate change initially leads to widespread flooding, but over time–as the snow disappears–it will actually lead to draughts in the summer. In the Ganga, the loss of glacier meltdown would reduce July – September flows by two thirds, causing water shortages for 500 million people and 37 percent of India’s irrigated land.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “glaciers in the Himayalas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the earth keeps getting warmer at the current rate.” The IPCC report states that the total area of glaciers in the Himalaya will shrink from 1,930,051 square miles to 38,000 square miles by 2035.
Global warming is causing unfathomable suffering for the people of India, who are plagued with tsunamis, floods, and loss of farmland. They are the victims of global injustice and apathy towards the harm that will inevitably continue if no action is taken.
IFG is focused on the Koch brothers because they are the source of a huge amount of the world’s pollution, and thus the loss of life and livelihood in the Himalaya.
In addition to destroying the environment, they also have made it their mission to stand in the way of environmental regulation and climate change reform by funneling their wealth into a vast network of think-tanks and foundations that will ensure it is legal for them to continue polluting.
The public needs to know about these men and the great and largely hidden lengths they go to get their way. Global justice means stopping these two men from corrupting our policymaking process and harming the millions of people suffering in the Global South.
Potential Himalayan Tsunami (a lot of in-depth global warming info)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzuwALhGt1U (Houses falling)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lezgy3qsBlc (shows the height of the water & how rapid the water was)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TijszAW8XOo (news report, priest talking about the water being higher than they expected & Shiva statue is washed away)