Himalayan glaciers are set to vanish by up to a third within this century; an event which will potentially impact billions of lives across several regions.
The Himalayan glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) region will disappear, regardless of efforts to reduce climate change, according to a mammoth new report that incorporates the work of over 200 scientists.
The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment took over five years to complete and went through an intensive review process from over 125 experts. The final publication was edited by Philippus Wester, Arabinda Mishra, Aditi Mukherji, and Arun Bhakta Shrestha
The 2000 mile HKH region runs from Afghanistan to Myanmar and is known as the planet’s ‘third pole’. It spans eight nations in total, including Nepal, Bhutan, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh and it was by collective request of these countries that the report was carried out. It’s the first of its kind, showcasing the true impact that global warming will have on the mountains (which includes both Everest and K2) and mountain communities.
“This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of. In the best of possible worlds, if we get really ambitious [meeting climate change targets], even then we will lose one-third of the glaciers and be in trouble. That for us was the shocking finding.” – Philippus Wester, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
Glacier loss could be as much as two thirds by 2100, if carbon emissions increase and climate change worsens, confirms the study. Mass disruption will occur as part of the melting, which will see homes destroyed, mass flooding, and agricultural, food and water issues arise for countless millions. “We really do know enough now to take action, and action is urgently needed,” added Wester.
A contextual portrait of the region was outlined by Casey Quackenbush in TIME Magazine;
Since the 1970s, rising temperatures have already thinned the ice in the region, which is home to 240 million people, according to the report. And while temperatures rising a few more degrees may not sound dramatic, the report notes the potential devastation it could cause the vulnerable communities in the surrounding area, many of whom live on or below the global poverty threshold of $1.90 a day.
To achieve compliance with the IPCC report on climate change, carbon emissions will need to be drastically reduced by 2015 if they are to remain a stable 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This target is, many scientists feel, incredibly optimistic.
Hydro electric dams, high-altitude lakes and rivers which flow through the area will all be effected by rising water levels as a result of the glacial melt. “Those areas will be hard hit,” confirmed Wester, referring to a period between 2050 to 2060, during which he predicts that extreme flooding of the Indus and central Asian rivers will impact the area.
This is the latest in a series of deeply troubling studies regarding the world’s ice reserves. In December of last year Arctic Report Card was released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with one of the bleakest outlooks which the study has ever produced in its 13 years. With a few weeks, a further report highlighted how an Antarctic ice sheet crack had raised global flood concerns.