Himalayas to lose one-third of glaciers by 2100 even if world Paris climate goals are met
Himalayan glacial melts will disrupt vulnerable ecosystems downstream shared between various states. (Flickr: NASA Johnson)
One-third of Himalayan glaciers will melt by the end of the century due to climate change — threatening water sources for 1.9 billion people — even if current efforts to reduce climate change succeed, an assessment has warned.
- The report looked at the effect of glacial melting across the region
- It found increased risk of downstream flooding to major Asian rivers
- If temperatures rise by 2C by 2100, two-thirds of glaciers will melt
If global efforts to curb climate change fail, the impact could be far worse: a loss of two-thirds of the region’s glaciers by 2100, said the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, released by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
“Global warming is on track to transform the frigid, glacier-covered mountain peaks of the Hindu Kush Himalayas … to bare rocks in a little less than a century,” said Philippus Wester, who led the report.
The five-year study looked at the effects of climate change on a region that cuts across Asia through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
A glacier at about 6,736m in the Himalayas is the Ganges River’s source. (Flickr: NASA Johnson)
The area, which includes the world’s tallest mountain peaks, has glaciers that feed into river systems including the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, Irrawaddy and Mekong.
The assessment said the impact of the melting could range from flooding from the increased run-off to increased air pollution from black carbon and dust deposited on the glaciers.
Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, an environmental research centre in Dhaka, described the findings of the report as “very alarming”, especially for downstream nations such as Bangladesh.
“All the countries affected need to prioritise tackling this upcoming problem before it reaches crisis proportions,” he said.
Dr Huq was one of the study’s external reviewers.
If temperatures rise to 2C, two-thirds of glaciers will be lost
The western Hindu Kush Himalayan region sits between central Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. (Flickr: Mark Horrell)
The study said even if the most ambitious Paris climate accord goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century was met, more than a third of the region’s glaciers would be lost.
If the global rise in temperature was 2C, two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers would melt, it said.
The 2015 Paris agreement was a landmark moment in international diplomacy, bringing together governments with vastly different views to tackle global warming.
It set a headline target of keeping average global temperatures from rising by more than 2C, or 1.5C, if possible.
According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), emissions of the most abundant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, would need to be reduced to a level the planet can absorb — known as net zero — by 2050 to keep global warming at 1.5C as envisaged in the agreement.
ICIMOD said the study included work by more than 350 researchers and policy experts from 22 countries.
It said it had 210 authors and 125 external reviewers.
The Kathmandu-based centre said it received donations from regional countries, non-regional countries such as Australia, Austria, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and other international programs such as USAID.