Himalayan glaciers could lose up to 80% of their volume this century, warns a report by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development. This could lead to flash floods and avalanches, and freshwater availability could be limited for the nearly 2 billion people who live along the 12 rivers originating in the Himalayas and Tibet.
Himalayan glaciers are disappearing 65% faster since 2010 than in the previous decade. The 200 glacial lakes in these mountains are in danger of disappearing, and the region could be flooded by glacial lake outbursts by the end of the century.
The effects of climate change are already being felt by Himalayan communities, sometimes very acutely. Earlier this year, the Indian mountain town of Joshimath began to sink, and residents had to be relocated within days.
“People living in the mountains have not contributed to global warming in any way. But they are at high risk from climate change,” said Amina Maharjan, a migration specialist and one of the report’s authors. – “Current efforts are totally inadequate, and we are extremely concerned that without more support, these communities will not be able to cope.”
Changes in glaciers, snow cover and permafrost in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region caused by global warming are “largely irreversible,” the report says.
Pearson says it’s critical for the Earth’s snow, permafrost and ice to stop warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, agreed upon at the 2015 climate conference in Paris. Pearson says, “I have a feeling that most politicians don’t take this goal seriously, but irreversible changes are already happening in the cryosphere.”