Severe flood risk from glacial lake due to global warming
4 February 2021
For the first time, new research, led by Rupert Stuart-Smith, has shown that human-caused global warming is directly responsible for creating a critical threat of a devastating outburst flood from Lake Palcacocha in the Peruvian Andes. The resulting flood would trigger a deadly landslide putting around 120,000 people, living in the city of Huaraz, in danger.
The study provides key new evidence for Lliuya v. RWE, a lawsuit in the German courts. Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a farmer from Huaraz, is suing RWE, Germany’s largest electricity producer, for the costs of preventing harms which would result from an outburst flood from Lake Palcacocha. The study’s establishment of a clear, linear causal chain between greenhouse gas emissions and severe outburst flood risk could help resolve critical outstanding questions in the case.
Stuart-Smith said 'We found that human influence on climate – through greenhouse gas emissions – is responsible for virtually all of the warming that has been observed in the region. The study shows that warming has caused the retreat of the Palcaraju glacier which, in turn, has increased the flood risk. Crucially, this establishes a direct link between emissions and the need to implement protective measures now, as well as any damages caused by flooding in future.’
CC BY-SA 3.0, Photo: Georg Kaser, 2002, Archiv des Institut für Geographie, Universität Innsbruck