Millions of people are under threat from melting of Himalayan glaciers, according to scientists carrying out the most comprehensive ever assessment of climate change in the region.
The findings, published in three reports by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), show Nepal’s glaciers have shrunk by 21 percent and Bhutan’s by 22 percent over 30 years.
The reports, launched on Sunday at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, provide the first authoritative confirmation of the extent of Himalayan glacial melting.
They follow a discredited announcement by scientists in 2007 that the region’s glaciers would be gone by 2035.
A three-year Sweden-funded research project led by ICIMOD showed 10 glaciers surveyed in the region all are shrinking, with a marked acceleration in loss of ice between 2002 and 2005.
Another study found a significant reduction in snow cover across the region in the last decade.
“These reports provide a new baseline and location-specific information for understanding climate change in one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world,” Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said.
“They substantially deepen our understanding of this region… while also pointing to the knowledge gaps yet to be filled and actions that must be taken to deal with the challenge of climate change.”
Scientists says the effects of climate change in the Himalayas could be devastating, as the region provides food and energy for 1.3 billion people living in downstream river basins.