Scientists have warned that due to climate change, Himalayan glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, leading to accelerated melting beyond previous expectations. These glaciers provide water to nearly 2 billion people and are now posing unforeseen and perilous threats.
According to a report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the glaciers in the Himalayas have receded rapidly by 65% from 2011 to 2020.
Leading author Philipp Wester explained, “As it gets warmer, the snow will melt as anticipated, but the alarming aspect is the speed. It is melting at a much faster rate than we had anticipated.”
The report highlights that the glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region are a crucial source of water for approximately 240 million people residing in mountainous areas and an additional 1.65 billion people living in the valleys downstream.
ICIMOD, an intergovernmental organization based in Nepal, includes countries such as India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and China. The organization has cautioned that at the current pace, the glaciers could shrink by 80% of their current volume by the end of the century.
The Himalayan glaciers play a vital role in sustaining the world’s top 10 river systems, including the Ganges, Indus, Yellow River, Mekong, and Irrawaddy. Furthermore, they directly or indirectly contribute to the livelihoods of billions of people by providing food, energy, clean air, and income.
Even if the internationally agreed targets outlined in the Paris Agreement are met, aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, the volume of these glaciers could still decline by half to three-quarters by the end of the century.
Since the mid-1800s, the world has experienced an average temperature increase of approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius, resulting in severe impacts on weather patterns. Intense heatwaves, prolonged droughts, and devastating storms have further compounded the situation.
The countries most affected by these climate changes are often the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged, despite contributing the least to global greenhouse gas emissions.