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Melting glaciers redistribute Asia's water

David Dollar's picture

"The glacier at Karo-la pass covered the whole rock face when our Tibetan guide began leading tours in 1996."
I spent the October holiday in China traveling across the Tibetan plateau to Qomolangma (Mount Everest) base camp. One striking impression was how much water there is there. Most of the great rivers of Asia originate on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau: Ganges, Indus, Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong, Salween, Irrawady, and Yarhung Tsangpo (which becomes the Brahmaputra in India and Bangladesh). Half the world’s population gets its water from these rivers running off the plateau. The rivers are fed by the gradual melting of the huge glaciers that cover the Himalayan peaks, as well as the melting of the annual snowpack and seasonal rain. (The name of the Himalayan peak, Annapurna, in Nepal means “full of food,” reflecting the fact that the gradual melting of snowpack and glaciers each spring and summer waters the rice crop.)

The melting of the glaciers has accelerated dramatically in recent years. This is one of the most profound effects of global warming. The glaciers have shrunk 20% over the past 50 years, with much of that in the past decade. Our Tibetan guide took us to a number of different glaciers and showed us how they had receded since he starting taking tours around in 1996. At Karo-la pass we stood on hard, dry ground that had been covered by the glacier just 12 years ago. Climate scientists project that the glaciers will be 80% gone by 2035.

The economics of Schadenfreude

Ryan Hahn's picture

Esther Duflo takes aim at bankers. Money quote:

If paying the bankers (a lot) less or taxing them (a lot) would certainly be more desirable from a moral point of view (not to mention considerations of equity), would it be harmful in terms of economic efficiency, as many economists suggest? Is there a risk of discouraging the most talented to work hard and innovate in finance? Probably. But it would almost certainly be a good thing...

Payment systems and systemic risk

Ryan Hahn's picture

Martin Wolf has an excellent piece today in the Financial Times, provocatively called Asia's Revenge. Wolf explains how the liberalization of international finance and the savings glut generated by emerging economies came together to help produce the current financial crisis. Preventing a recurrence of this mess will require some changes:

Does the financial crisis signal the end of free markets and a return to state intervention?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

At a recent videoconference with journalists, I was asked the question in the title of this post several times.   Does the fact that private banks in the United States are going bankrupt mean that the free market system is a failure?  Does the fact that the United States government is bailing out these banks and in some cases “nationalizing” them mean that state intervention is back?

Governance for a Crowded Planet: The Need to Leap and to Innovate – Part I

Verena Fritz's picture

In March, Jeffrey Sachs published his latest book Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet – an urgent plea for societies across the globe to reduce and better manage their impact on the earth’s ecosystems if we want to survive and prosper in an ever more crowded world.

As Sachs warns, continuing ‘business as usual’ will make life on our planet increasingly unsustainable. Air pollution and global warming present the biggest risks. But as humans have come to use almost any natural resource intensively, there are also major risks related to the availability of water and of fertile top-soil. At the same time, Sachs argues that we have the technical tools and the economic means to save the planet and to accommodate a rising global population – as well as increasing global wealth and rising consumption in today’s poorer countries.

Internet course: Advanced Poverty Analysis

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

Advanced Poverty Analysis: Poverty Dynamics (November 24 - December 15, 2008)

This ten-session on-line course on poverty analysis, delivered by the World Bank Institute over a period of three weeks, will emphasize the measurement and interpretation of poverty dynamics.

The course will be structured as follows:

October 8 is International Day for Disaster Reduction

Zoe Elena Trohanis's picture

Growing up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, every year in elementary, junior high and high school, we would participate in hurricane drills. An alarm would sound, and all the kids would file into the interior hallways, sit cross-legged on the floor, and cover our heads with our hands. Some of us, if there wasn't a hallway handy, would crawl under our desks until we were told it was safe to resurface. Thinking back on those drills, I knew they were important but never quite made the link as to why we had to do these exercises, since strong hurricanes never seemed to make their way that far inland while I was growing up. Of course then in 2004, Hurricane Ivan blew through my hometown and caused massive damage, and knocked out my parents' power and water supply for more than a week. I'm sure the local schools put their hurricane drills to good use during that storm.


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