Two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2100

Guardian graphic

Guardian graphic

Almost one-third of the Himalaya's glaciers will melt with a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius, affecting 1.65 billion people in the region, a new study released on Monday said.

The Himalayan glaciers feed water to 10 of the world's most important river systems, including the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Mekong, and Irrawaddy, supporting the livelihoods of and food production for billions of people.

The mountain area, which spans eight countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, is home to Mount Everest and K2, the two highest peaks in the world.

The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, the first comprehensive analysis of its kind for the region, brought together more than 350 researchers and policy experts from 22 countries and 185 organizations over the course of five years.

It was published by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal, one of eight countries on the front line. Huq was one of the study's external reviewers.

"This is the climate crisis you haven't heard of", said Philippus Wester of the ICIMOD, who led the report, the "Hindu Kush Assessment".

Theicy peaks of the Himalayas are under threat from climate change caused by human action - and two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers could melt.

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The study says that one-third of the 250 million people living in the mountains live on less that $2 a day. Another 1.65 billion people live in river valleys below. The problem is being exacerbated by severe air pollution in parts of the region. Air pollutants like black carbon and dust land on the glaciers, which speeds up their melting, too.

The report said that one-third of the ice will melt by 2100 even if governments worldwide meet goals set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming.

The study said governments in the region must change their existing agriculture systems, prepare for droughts and put up early flood warning systems. He said in a statement that mountain regions were also extremely vulnerable as "climate hotspots".

"It's not just occupants of the world's islands that are suffering", he said.

"There are rocky times ahead for the region: between now and 2080, the environmental, economic, and social conditions laid out in the report could go downhill", concluded Eklabya Sharma, deputy director general of ICIMOD. He added, "Mountain people are really getting hit hard...."

The new report said that even if the 1.5-degrees target is achieved, it would mean a rise of 2.1 degrees in the Himalayas region.

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