Jan 20

Climate Change: Tibetan Plateau in Peril

Written by Allen on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 1:49 am
Filed under:-mini-posts, culture, Environment, General, video | Tags:, , ,
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Too often when we discuss Tibet, we reflexively focus our attention on the political spat between the CCP and the Dalai Lama.  However, Tibet is much more than the current political spat.

For one thing: there is the people; the indigenous culture; the land – and of course the important environmental role the Tibetan Plateau plays in regional as well as global environment.

The following is a video from Asia Society on the Peril the Tibetan Plateau is under – as well its implication for all of us in light of global climate change.

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7 Responses to “Climate Change: Tibetan Plateau in Peril”

  1. chinayouren Says:

    Mhh, America based Society speaking of Tibet … I give us 30 min. before we get the first political comments/ flames. In the meantime, take the chance to watch this beautful video.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Haiz Says:


    Thanks for bringing up a totally different part of Tibet story.

  3. Steve Says:

    There was a part in the video clip where they talked about ice core samples and how by analyzing these samples, they can get a reading on climate changes going back hundreds of thousands of years.

    I worked with Scripps Oceanographic Institute in San Diego a few years ago, selling them cold heads that were used to analyze these ice cores. The cold heads bring the temperature down to single degrees Kelvin so only the trapped air in the ice core is released and there is no contamination from the ice itself. The PhD scientist that I worked with was from Switzerland with a Japanese wife, and my wife and I socialized with them on a few occasions, so I was able to hear more about his work in that way.

    I’ve seen the actual graphs and it’s spooky. There have been spikes of certain gases such as methane, propane, CO2, etc. during certain cataclysmic events going back in history. But today’s numbers are literally “off the charts”. The key word is climate “change”. It’s not necessarily global warming. For instance, some speculate that the melting of the polar icecaps will cause the very cold melted water to influence the Gulf Stream that runs from the Caribbean to the UK, bringing the temperature down to cause another mini Ice Age. They’ve pointed to similar situations in the past where this has occurred.

    China’s situation is a warming trend in the mountains, but unstable and unpredictable weather in the rest of the country, as was illustrated by last winter’s cold snap down south. Some speculate that massive pollution in China itself has caused this temperature increase, but in the past it’s been shown that changes in the southern atmosphere, i.e., volcanic activity, have dramatically changed weather patterns in the northern hemisphere for years, so the changes can be caused by a number of factors. The earth’s ecosystem is too complex for such simplified conclusions. Even computer mapping is in its early stages and not that accurate, but it is getting better as more data is added.

    The one thing we do know is that people cause pollution. No matter how much we clean up the environment, the raw number of people on the earth are changing the ecosystems just by the act of living. Jerry has shown the numbers time and time again, but this video shows the dramatic impact of those numbers.

  4. Charles Liu Says:

    Steve is right. What’s happening in Tibet certainly is part of the global warming Al Gore spoke of. And China’s cold snap last winter certainly is part of the changes in global weather patterns we are seeing.

  5. JL Says:

    Thanks Allen, you’re dead on with your first two sentences. In my view this is much more important than negotiations between the CCP and the Dalai Lama

  6. Steve Says:

    @ Charles Liu #4: Another huge source of CO & CO2 emissions has been the Indonesian wildfires during El Niño climate patterns, along with deliberate jungle burns to create agricultural land. By some estimates burning in Indonesia can contribute up to 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in peak years, making Indonesia the third largest greenhouse gas polluter, despite having only the world’s 22nd largest economy.

    The smoke from these fires typically drifts northwest toward the Indian subcontinent and Himalayan regions. I would not be surprised if it had a direct impact on recent climate change in Tibet.

  7. Steve Says:

    I was flipping through the channels last night when I saw that ITV was running a show about global climate change. It was exactly the subject of this post with the same scientist from the Ohio State University. It got into the subject in much greater depth than the short snippet that Allen posted, but obviously with the same conclusions.

    Carbon dioxide levels are now about 30% above pre-industrial revolution levels at around 385 parts per million, a 130 PPM increase over that time. These levels are about 100 PPM above previously known highs going back 700,000 years. Because there is a lag effect when dealing with temperature, the actual changes for today’s levels won’t be felt for decades so even if drastic changes are made to our industrial methods, we could still suffer grave effects for years to come.

    Some scientists have said that additional CO2 in the atmosphere will just be absorbed by plant life which will grow at a faster rate, since the absorbtion of CO2 is a part of photosynthesis. But long running experiments done at Stanford University along with other locations throughout the country have shown this not to be the case. Tests were done controlling CO2, N2, sunlight and water and no matter what combination was used, the plants were unable to absorb the extra CO2.

    I’ve also read some scientists who say the data is unreliable. They are an extremely small minority and I don’t think their argument is valid. Using the ice core analysis, they can correlate the data extremely accurately with actual known phenomena that have been recorded in historical documents. If the data was unreliable, then accurate tracking would not be possible.

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