Two thirds of the glaciers of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush could melt from here until the end of this century, if the planet maintains the current greenhouse gas emissions, warns a study carried out by 350 experts led by the International Development Center Integrated Mountain (ICIMOD), an intergovernmental organization established in Kathmandu (Nepal).
The Hindu Kush-Himalayan mountain region, which stretches 3,500 kilometers between Afghanistan and Burma, is considered a "third pole" by scientists because of its gigantic ice reserves. All that ice feeds 10 of the largest rivers in Asia, from the Ganges to the Mekong, through the Yellow River. These are rivers whose basins meet huge population centers. According to this research, which required five years of work, climate change threatens the high altitude glaciers of this mountainous complex, which includes some of the highest peaks in the world, such as the Himalayas and K2.
In an official note, the head of the study, Philippus Wester, said that "It's the climate crisis that nobody has heard about." And even if nations fulfilled the commitments of the 2015 Paris Agreement and managed to reduce their emissions to 2100 to contain global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above that registered in the pre-industrial era, the Hindus Kush-Himalaya would also lose third of its glaciers. Such a scenario represents a significant impact for the 250 million people living in the entire mountain complex and the 1,650 million people living in the river basins of the region.
"Climate warming will have to transform mountain peaks covered with glaciers in eight countries of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas in bare stones in less than a century," Wester said. According to the expert, "the consequences for the people of the region, which is already one of the most fragile mountain areas in the world, will go from an aggravation of air pollution to an increase in extreme climatic phenomena. "
By influencing the volumes and periods of the glacial source, climate warming also threatens the agricultural production that depends on that water, and thus opens the doors to a risk scenario in the food security of the entire region. In this framework, water distribution systems in urban centers, as well as the production of energy and food, would be seriously affected.
More frequent droughts, increase in the number of violent rains and sudden floods due to the melting of the glaciers are among the climatic risks cited by the study. According to its authors, it will be necessary contributions of between 3,200 and 4,600 million dollars per year until the year 2030 to adapt to climate change, and between 5,500 and 7,800 million per year until 2050. The director general of the ICIMOD, David Molden, told the AFP that all the countries of the region "share the mountain resources and therefore it is necessary that they work together to determine the way to face the problem, and speak with a single voice on the world stage".