Rocky, one of YPTE's Young Trustees has written this fantastic article about how climate change is causing glaciers in the Himalayas to melt more quickly and what that means for our planet.
Climate change is a pressing issue that affects the entire planet, and its impacts are particularly severe in glaciated regions, such as the Himalayas. The Himalayan mountain range is home to large glaciers that provide freshwater to nearly 240 million people living in the region. However, rising global temperatures are causing rapid ice melt, leading to many environmental, economic, and social challenges. This article will delve into the effects of climate change on the Himalayas, discussing what this means for the environment and society, and the efforts being made to mitigate these impacts.
One of the greatest impacts of climate change in glaciated regions is the rapid melting of ice caused by rising temperatures. Temperatures in the Himalayan region are rising by 0.2°C per decade, thanks to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is caused by the release of greenhouse gases from human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere and which causes the glaciers to melt and decrease in size - known as glacial retreat. According to a report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, the Hindu Kush Himalayan region has already lost over 8,000 square kilometres of ice cover since the 1970s, and this trend is expected to worsen. The melting ice drains into nearby rivers and oceans which contributes to global sea-level rise. This is a great threat to coastal cities and low-lying areas across the globe. The region also relies heavily on glacial meltwater for daily needs, but as the glaciers melt and recede, there is less water available which can worsen water scarcity, poverty, and food insecurity.
Climate change also disrupts weather patterns in glaciated regions. Rising temperatures cause more evaporation and moisture in the atmosphere, resulting in more frequent and intense precipitation events. According to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, some regions in the Himalayas have seen rainfall rise by 22% in the last 30 years. This change in rainfall patterns can lead to flash floods, as rivers and streams hold larger volumes of water. The devastating 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand, India, caused numerous casualties, extensive damage to infrastructure, and severe crop failures. Landslides are another consequence, as excess water from flash floods loosens the surrounding soil, making the region more susceptible to erosion. These climate change-induced natural disasters are a significant threat to both the environment and local communities.
Governments in the Himalayan region recognise the urgency of addressing climate change impacts and have implemented initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Countries like India aim to generate 40% of their energy from renewable sources by 2030, while China works towards reaching peak emissions by 2030. Additionally, early warning systems for floods and landslides, along with the promotion of drought-resistant crops and water conservation practices, have been developed through collaboration between governments and organisations such as the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also plays a crucial role in building climate-resilient livelihoods for vulnerable communities in the region.
The Himalayas serve as a stark example of how climate change is a significant threat to glaciated regions. Rising temperatures, melting ice, changing weather patterns, and the impacts on water availability, food security, and natural disasters are concerns for the region's future. It is crucial that individuals, organisations, and governments take responsibility for their actions and continue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the consequences of climate change. By working together, we can strive for a sustainable future that protects the Himalayas and other vulnerable regions for generations to come.
If you are aged between 16 and 24 and are interested in becoming a Young Trustee of YPTE, please complete this Google form.
Banner photo: Evening panoramic view of Mount Everest base camp, Everest, Nuptse, Khumbu Glacier, Sagarmatha National Park, in the Nepalese Himalayas. Photo 145877703 / Himalayas Glacier © Daniel Prudek | Dreamstime.com
Above right: Three little pools that will grow larger over time that have formed due to melting ice at the alpine area along the trail to Everest Base Camp, Nepal. Photo 94524993 / Himalayas Glacier Melt © Stbernardstudio | Dreamstime.com