Earlier this month, it was reported that increasing global temperatures will melt at least one-third of the Himalayan glaciers by the end of this century. This is forecasted to happen even if the world meets its climate change targets as per the Paris Agreement. The study, called the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, was released by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). This was a five-year study that looked at the effects of climate change on the Himalayan region that runs through India, Nepal, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
More worryingly, if current efforts to mitigate climate change effects are unsuccessful, the Himalayas could lose two-thirds of its glaciers by 2100 and heat up by a huge 4.4 degrees Celsius. That this will be catastrophic, resulting in food and water shortages, floods, and mass population displacement for the billions living in that region, is an inevitable conclusion. The Himalayan glaciers feed the region’s many rivers which are the lifeline of its populations, such as the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Indus, Mekong, Yangtze and Irrawaddy. These rivers provide water to about a quarter of the world’s population.
Glacier volumes across the world are projected to decline up to 90 per cent this century due to global warming. As per the elevation-dependent warming phenomenon, warming rates are greater at higher elevations. Since the 1970s, rising temperatures have resulted in thinning of the ice in these glaciers.
The study included work by more than 350 researchers and policymakers from 22 countries, with 210 authors and 125 external reviewers.
Philippus Wester, who led the report, said, ‘Global warming is on track to transform the frigid, glacier-covered mountain peaks of the Hindu Kush Himalayas … to bare rocks in a little less than a century. This is a climate crisis you have not heard of. Impacts on people in the region, already one of the world’s most fragile and hazard-prone mountain regions, will range from worsened air pollution to an increase in extreme weather events.’