Himalayan glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate

(Bangalore) Glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate in the Himalayan mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush and could lose up to 80% of their current volume this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not drastically reduced, according to a new study.

The report from the Kathmandu-based International Center for Integrated Mountain Development says floods and avalanches are likely to increase in the coming years, and the availability of fresh water for nearly two billion people living downstream in 12 rivers that source in these mountains will be affected. .

The ice and snow of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan mountain ranges is an important source of water for these rivers, which traverse 16 countries in Asia and provide fresh water for 240 million people in the mountains and 1.65 billion people downstream.

“People who live in these mountains, which have contributed almost nothing to global warming, are at great risk from climate change,” said Amina Maharaj, a migration specialist and one of the authors of the report.

Current adaptation efforts are woefully inadequate, and we are deeply concerned that without increased support, these communities will not be able to deal with what may arise. »

Various previous reports have revealed that the cryosphere – the regions of Earth covered in snow and ice – are among the regions most affected by climate change. Recent research has revealed that the glaciers of Mount Everest, for example, have lost 2,000 years’ worth of ice in the past 30 years alone.

“We are mapping for the first time the links between cryosphere change with water, ecosystems and society in this mountainous region,” said Ms.I festival.

Among the report’s key findings, Himalayan glaciers are disappearing 65% faster since 2010 than in the previous decade, and less snow cover due to global warming will lead to less fresh water for people living downstream. The study found that 200 glacial lakes across these mountains are considered unsafe and the region could see a significant rise in glacial lake floods by the end of the century.

The study found that communities in mountainous regions are more vulnerable to climate change than other parts of the world. She says changes to glaciers, snow and permafrost in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region driven by global warming are “unprecedented and largely irreversible”.

Himalayan communities are beginning to feel the effects of climate change, sometimes severely. Earlier this year, the Indian mountain town of Joshimath began to collapse and residents had to be relocated within days.

“Once the ice in these areas thaws, it is very difficult to return it to its frozen form,” said Pam Pearson, director of the International Cryospheric Climate Initiative, who was not involved in the report.

“It’s like a big ship in the ocean. Once the ice starts falling, it’s very hard to stop it. So with glaciers, especially the big Himalayan glaciers, once they start losing mass, they’re going to last for a very long time before they settle.”

MI Pearson said it was critically important for Earth’s snows, permafrost and ice that warming be limited to 1.5°C, as agreed at the 2015 Paris climate conference.

“I feel like most policy makers don’t take this goal seriously, but in the cryosphere really irreversible changes are happening,” she said.

The Associated Press’ environmental content receives funding from several private foundations. The Associated Press is solely responsible for editorial selections.

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