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Q1) The melting of the cryosphere due to climate change is a global threat whose effects will not be restricted to mountains and polar countries. Discuss. (250 Words/ 15 Marks)


The cryosphere refers to the frozen water on Earth’s surface, including glaciers, ice caps, and sea ice. The melting of the cryosphere due to climate change is a global threat that has significant implications for the planet.

The melting of the cryosphere can affect mountains and polar countries in the following ways:

  1. Natural disasters: Melting ice can trigger natural disasters such as landslides, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), and avalanches.

E.g., the 2021 Chamoli GLOF or 2013 Chorabari lake outburst in the Himalayas.

  1. Ecological Impact: Effects on foraging and predator-prey relationships can cause extinction of endemic species of plants and animals and loss of biodiversity E.g., decline in polar bear populations as they struggle to find enough food and habitat amidst the loss of sea ice in the Arctic.
  2. Economic Impact: Tourism and recreation activities such as skiing, glacier tourism and mountaineering are negatively impacted by declining snow cover, retreating glaciers, and thawing of permafrost.

However, the effects of the melting of the cryosphere are not limited to mountainous and polar regions.

The melting of cryosphere has the following global impacts:

  1. Rising sea levels, caused in part by melting glaciers and ice caps, threaten coastal cities and communities around the world.

E.g., inundation of densely populated low-lying areas and islands in Bangladesh, Maldives etc.

  1. The melting of ice can disrupt ocean currents and weather patterns through variations in oceanic salinity and density. It can have far-reaching effects on agriculture, economies, and ecosystems through draughts, floods, cyclones etc.
  2. The melting of the permafrost can exacerbate climate change by releasing trapped carbon and methane into the atmosphere, which would cause acceleration of global warming.
  3. Loss of sea ice could reduce the planet’s albedo, or reflectivity. This would cause the planet to absorb more solar radiation, further exacerbating global warming.
  4. Tropical Diseases would spread to more areas through expansion of habitats for tropical vectors, such as mosquitos in temperate latitudes.
  5. Conflicts over resource: Melting of arctic ice could create a contest over the region’s mineral oil resources and shipping lanes. Similarly, contests for control over Himalayan rivers between India, China, and Pakistan could also ensue.

Cryosphere plays a crucial role in regulating Earth’s climate, freshwater availability, and sea level. It is part of the global commons that needs global cooperation to protect it from the negative anthropological effects and creation of a sustainable future for succeeding generations.

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