Two studies on ice-melts, in the Hindu Kush and in the Arctic, foretell the danger the world will soon face
The Hindu Kush Himalayan region—spread over 3,500 square kilometres across eight countries including India, Nepal and China—is warming faster than the global average. The HKH region supports the lives and livelihoods of over 210 million people and, as the source of 10 major Asian rivers, the HKH also provides essential resources, especially water, to over a billion people and feeds the grain baskets of Asia. What is unfortunate is that, even if carbon emissions are dramatically and rapidly cut, succeeding in limiting global warming to 1.5oC, 36% of the glaciers in the HKH will be gone by 2100. If emissions are not cut, the loss soars to two-thirds, a newly released report found. Glacier melting at the HKH region accompanies the retreat of Arctic glaciers, exposing surfaces that haven’t seen the sun for at least 40,000 years. A team of researchers from University of Colorado used radiocarbon dating measures and found that the vegetation they were testing in Canada were at least as old as the oldest age that radiocarbon dating can detect: 40,000 years. The melting of glaciers increases river flows, pushing up the risk of high-altitude reservoirs engulfing communities.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD’s) Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment Report is the first-ever assessment of impacts of climate change on the ecologically important but fragile region. This region is a heat sink in summer and a heat source in winter, and this influences the Indian summer monsoon. So, any changes in this region would have a bearing on the monsoon itself that already shows signs of changes in spread and distribution and, in turn, on the livelihoods and ecological systems dependent on it. The need, following the report’s warning, is now for informed science-driven advocacy for urgent climate action and immediate conservation efforts. The disastrous impact of glacier-melting will leave the world at large reeling.