Rapidly Melting Tibetan Plateau Spells Fear of Calamity Across Asia
Scientists studying the Tibetan Plateau estimate that the glaciers will be reduced by half somewhere between 2030 to 2050 if existing global warming continues
Due to the current global warming trends, the Tibetan Plateau is melting more rapidly than the global average. Scientists are worried that the flow of Asia’s major rivers will eventually reduce if global warming continues at the same pace.
Martin Mills of the Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research said,
The plateau is filling up like a goblet. Its cryosphere is already undergoing a catastrophic and irreversible ecological shift, and the current direction of climate change in the next 50 years will directly impact the region and the world.
Why’s Tibetan Plateau melting worrisome?
Mills has formed a paper titled “Climate Change on the Third Pole” for the Scottish Parliament. The paper includes all the details of the results of uncontrolled global warming on the plateau and nearby regions.
The Tibetan plateau has the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) ice sheet, which is called the world’s “Third Pole.” It has the highest number of glaciers and snow just after the Antarctic and Arctic. To be precise, the plateau has over 46,000 glaciers, which is around 14.5% of the world’s total.
All these glaciers feed Asia’s main river systems. The Sutlej, Indus, Irrawaddy, Salween, Yellow Rivers, Yangtze, and Mekong are the major rivers that originate from these glaciers. And, all these rivers are the lifelines to several countries while supporting a large population of 2 billion people.
However, due to the drastic climate change, the Third Pole glaciers are disappearing faster than any other glaciers on the earth. With the loss of Tibetan glaciers, there will be a greater loss of livelihood for those depending on the mentioned rivers. It means that over a quarter of the world’s complete population is at risk.
Even Chinese scientists studying the Tibetan plateau have already estimated that glaciers are most likely to reduce by half around 2030-2050. It is also due to underground ice depleting quickly. So, the surface water will seep quickly into the soil instead of draining into the rivers. This will further decrease the dry season flow.
According to Diana Liveman, a co-author of the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5o C and professor at the University of Arizona, the melting glaciers in the Third Pole will lead to water scarcity and food insecurity in Asia. Moreover, there will also be a higher risk of floods during the monsoon.
As per the experts, there is only one option to reverse global warming. And, it is to take drastic measures to reduce the global carbon emissions to half by 2030. It could be possible only with the elimination of coal, reduction in consumption, and expansion to renewable energy.