Himalayan glaciers fall victim to changing world climate

Chris Patiño, Assistant News Editor

One-third of the Himalayan glaciers will melt away to bare rock by the end of the century despite efforts to combat climate change.

The Hindu Kush Himalaya assessment, which was conducted over the course of five-years with more than 350 researchers and policy makers from 22 countries, was released by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. The study looked at the effects of climate change across the regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The area serves as a water source for 1.9 billion people. 

“In regards to the accelerated melting of the Himalayan glaciers, what people do not realize is that more glacier lakes are forming behind unstable earth, which when disrupted, lead to catastrophic floods in the region – destroying infrastructure and displacing people,” said Dr. Jerry Kavouras, Department Chair and professor of Biology.

Glacial sheets around the globe have felt the effects of a warmer climate. Between 2002 and 2005, Antarctica lost 36 cubic miles of ice. Since 1994, the Earth has lost 400 billion tons of glacial ice on a yearly average. 

The ice that melts off the glacial peaks flows into the oceans and raises sea levels. In the last century sea levels have risen 6.7 inches, but within just the past decade or so, the rate of increase has doubled. 

Rising sea levels present dangers to coastal regions and its inhabitants. Large storms in such areas will hit with more devastating surges of destruction. More ocean surrounding the lands will shrink the shorelines, taking territory away from the locals and their seaside homes.

According to the study, even if the planet’s temperature were to meet the Paris climate accord goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the glaciers will still melt. If measures to halt rising global temperatures are not met, the Himalayan’s may end up losing as much as two-thirds of its ice sheets.  

Over 97 of percent of active climate scientists agree that rising global temperatures are due to human activity. Since the Industrial Revolution, human production and manufacture have brought technological accomplishments beyond imagination—at a high cost.

“We’ve increased our absorption of natural resources and in turn released a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” said Bill Nye, an American science educator (commonly known as the “Science Guy”), in a National Geographic instructive video. 

Greenhouse gases do occur naturally, but in excess can be harmful to the planet.

Greenhouse gases trap heat that comes from the sun, and the more heat that is trapped, the warmer the planet becomes.

“Modern human activities have increased the release of non-natural occurring greenhouse gases, because we have stepped up our demand for burning fossil fuels,” said Nye. The Earth’s temperature is estimated to have become 1.2 to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer within the last century. NASA’s Global Climate Change reports that eighteen of the nineteen warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. 

“The only viable path to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere is for all nations to agree to a reduction of fossil fuel consumption,” said Kavouras. “However, this is, at times, in conflict with many initiatives to raise the standard of living and eliminate global poverty.”

The 2015 Paris Agreement, a pact by the United Nations and signed by 195 countries to battle climate change, aims to keep the planet’s temperature from going over 1.5 degrees Celsius. The United States withdrew from the agreement in 2017.