A Third of All Himalayan Glaciers Could Be Gone By 2100

Following on the heals of reports that glaciers in North America, Greenland, and Antarctica are melting at an accelerating rate comes another alarming climate change summary, this time from the Himalaya. Yesterday, it was revealed that even if humans manage to hit their target goals for curbing emissions and reducing greenhouse gases, it is now likely that a third of all the glaciers in the Himalaya will be gone by the year 2100. Worse yet, if those goals aren’t met, the impact of a warming planet could have even more catastrophic results.

The newest report comes our way from the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, which has completed one of the most in-depth studies of Himalayan glaciers ever conducted. The study took five years to complete and included 210 authors, with input from more than 350 researchers spread out across 22 countries. Their findings indicate that that the region could see as much as an 8ºF (4.4ºC) rise in temperatures by the end of the century, which would result in 2/3 of all the glaciers melting.

The glaciers of the Hindu Kush stretch out across more than 2000 miles (3218 km) and provide fresh water to vast areas of Asia. Should the run-off waters from those glaciers disappear, it could have a deep and lasting impact on the hundreds of millions of people who depend upon them. In fact, if the dire precautions from this report come true, it could lead to a humanitarian crisis on scale that has never been seen before.

“This is a climate crisis you have not heard of,” said Philippus Wester, a lead author of the report. “Impacts on people in the region, already one of the world’s most fragile and hazard-prone mountain regions, will range from worsened air pollution to an increase in extreme weather events.”

Climatologists have long known that the impact of green house gases is magnified at high latitudes, which is why the Arctic and Antarctic are being hit so severely. But the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment found that impact was also greater at higher elevations as well. Obviously, altitudes don’t come much higher than in the Himalaya, where most of the glaciers are already in full retreat. In India, Nepal, and other countries water shortages in these regions are already becoming an issue and are expected to only grow in severity in the years to come. Climate change has also altered weather patterns in the Himalaya as well, shifting rain and snowfall to different areas, causing inhabitants to migrate to new locations.

Again, this is another indication that climate change is not only real, it is upon us and bringing some frightening consequences along with it. The year 2100 sounds like it is a long way off, but really it is a deadline that is fast approaching. It is true that most of us reading this article will have long passed by then, but the generations that are following are going to be left with a planet that will be increasingly hostile to humans. That is another sobering thought to add to the list.

Kraig Becker