DAA Daily

Climate change threatens Himalayan glaciers

By Rachel Davis

Staff Reporter

The Pawprint

Image Source: NPR

The Himalayan glaciers face melting in high volumes due to the rapidly warming climate.

According to a new report, it is predicted that at least a third of the ice will be melted by the end of the year 2100. A study found that carbon emissions are causing the temperature spike, and warns that without immediate action, the damage may be irreversible.

The carbon emission comes mainly from air pollutants from one of the most populated regions, the North Indian Plain. The plain is in the north-central part of the Indian subcontinent, and extends into eastern Pakistan.

The affected glaciers are in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region (HKH), which spans over 2,000 miles in Asia. A quarter of the world’s population is dependent on glaciers for water because many rivers are fed by them. The millions of people living in the river valleys are at high risk due to flooding and losing their crops.

Philippus Webster, a lead editor of the report, said that the floods would be an initial cause of a surplus of melted water. Once the floods subside, a massive decrease in flowing water from the glaciers will cause springs and other agricultural areas to dry up.

“The impact on people in the region, in 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,” says Webster. “But it’s the projected reductions in pre-monsoon river flows and changes in the monsoon that will hit hardest, throwing urban water systems and food and energy production off kilter.”

Michele Koppes, a climate scientist at the University of British Columbia, has also voiced her concern on the effects of the mass flooding. “Glaciers and snowpack are like big storage tanks of water,” she told National Geographic. Koppes described the rising rate of glacial melting as “drawing on their storage tanks,” which would leave the area, ecological systems, and communities in danger.

The HKH is currently experiencing “elevation-dependent warming”, a phenomenon in which higher elevations warm up quicker than lower elevations. The exact cause is still unknown.

Sherab Lama, a Buddhist monk living high in the mountains, is one of many who are seeing the changes caused by climate change. Lama grew up in a village that is 16,000 feet up in the Dolpa region of Nepal. The village has a view of three mountains known as the Ghangri Poosum in Tibetan (translates to “three ice-covered brothers”). He claims that only two had ice when he was a boy, and only one is covered with ice now.

“[Those] who worry about climate change, they are scared,” Lama said. “They are worried. I am very worried.” He also says many villagers have tried to limit their plastic use and be more environmentally friendly. Many admit they are aware that a lot is beyond their control.

The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is an intergovernmental organization based in Nepal. The ICIMOD is working with 210 scientists who wrote the report in an attempt to find solutions. The organization is currently trying to persuade national governments to work alongside them.

“This is a region where water is a hot topic politically, economically and in day to day life, and harsher droughts could be a severe shock to an already fragile system,” says Dr. Hamish Pritchard from the British Antarctic Survey. “I have read this report as a warning to prepare for these shocks.”

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