Ice melting could have profound consequences for millions of people in the region, a report has warned
Some of the world’s best-known mountain ranges may soon be unrecognizable due to the ravages of climate change, after scientists warned in a report that Himalayan glaciers could lose up to 75% of their ice by the turn of the century
Ice loss in the region, which includes Everest and K2, accelerated by 65% during the 2010s compared to the decade prior, according to the report recently published by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu. This could lead to devastating floods followed by severe drought affecting the 240 million people who live in surrounding areas.
The Hindu Kush Himalaya extends 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.
“We’re losing the glaciers, and we’re losing them in 100 years’ time,” the lead author of the report, environmental scientist Phillipus Wester, said.
According to the report, if global temperatures rise to 1.5C or 2C ahead of pre-industrial levels, glacial loss in the region will be around 30-50%. At 3C of warming – which is generally considered to be the path that current climate policies will achieve – eastern Himayalan glaciers in Nepal and Bhutan will lose 75% of their ice.
Global temperatures for the years between 2023 and 2027 are predicted to be between 1.1 and 1.8 degrees celsius warmer than the 1850-1900 averages, the World Meteorological Organization says.
“In all three pillars of climate action – in mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage – we are at a standstill or going the wrong way,” climate expert Professor Saleemul Huq says in the report. “The consequences of inaction are accelerating by the day.”
The report also warned that glacial water flows to the region’s 12 river basins are likely to peak by the middle of the century. This would have grave consequences for the 1.6 billion people who depend on this as a water supply, as sources dry up, leading to scarcity of drinking water and problems with crop irrigation and livestock maintenance.
As such, Izabella Koziell, deputy director general of the ICIMOD said in the report that “the consequences of losing this cryosphere are too vast to contemplate. We need leaders to act now to prevent catastrophe.”
Some world governments have begun to take action to mitigate future climate-change-induced water scarcity. In May, Beijing revealed plans for a revised water network designed to reduce risk from floods and droughts, while Pakistan has designed warning systems to alert for glacial lake outburst floods.
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