News Karnataka
Saturday, December 03 2022
Environment

Faster melting of Himalayan Glaciers: climate crisis at tipping point?

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New Delhi: The world is divided by borders leading to conflicts, but the call of the climate crisis demands that it works together, else destruction is inevitable. One such climate crisis is the changing face of the Himalayas.

Speaking at The Open Forum webinar on December 9 on the topic ‘Melting of Himalayan Glacier: Is it a global crisis at tipping point?’ Dr Martin A. Mills, Director, Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research informed that, “we have missed the boat on this one.”

The other speaker at the webinar Joydeep Gupta, South Asia Director of The Third Pole further said, “the Himalayas are warming faster than the global average.” He is of the opinion that this process is “irreversible.”

Gupta added that “Once these glaciers have lost enough ice then all scientists tell us that we will start seeing water shortage… quarter of the world’s population is dependent on these waters, so it matters,” emphasised Gupta.

Consisting of largest concentration of frozen water on Earth after North and South Pole, the Himalayas are also known as The Third Pole.

The Himalayan glaciers have lost quarter of its ice in the last four decades. Rise in temperatures is melting glaciers and pollution is making it worse.

The Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau are a vital source of water to approximately 2 billion people apart from livelihood to millions living in the region. Flash floods in the Uttarakhand region of India in February 2021 to the increased flooding of the Brahmaputra, are extreme events that seem to be coming faster every year.

Not only India but the situation impacts people of Pakistan, China including Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan Afghanistan, Bangladesh and eventually the world.

Calling the situation with the Himalayas, “profoundly depressing,” Dr Mills, who is informed by the report that his centre published in January 2021 that examined the works of 900 scientists over two years, believes that there is not much that can be done in our lifetimes or that of our children but if action is taken in time our great-grand children might reap the benefits.

Attempting to bring some hope along with need for urgent action the third panelist on the webinar Jennifer Tollmann, Senior Policy Advisor for Climate Diplomacy and Geopolitics, E3G said, “we might have passed the tipping point, but we don’t want to add many other tipping points.”

Accepting the complications that geo-political positions and conflicts that the region brings, Jennifer suggested, “In the same way that we have an Arctic Council, we need a Himalayan council at National Security level where these countries have to deal with the fact that they have very different interest and all these interests are at risk with this tipping point being breached and how are they going to co-operate on that.”

It is of course easier said than done specially in a “region that is fraught with geo-political tensions between the likes of Pakistan-India and China.

A video question sent by Denche Palmo from Tibet Policy, raised the concern that when the human rights abuses in Tibetan, Xinjang and Hong-Kong is not acknowledged by China then, “How can climate activists from Tibet make their voice heard?”

Tibet being a region that is gravely affected by this crisis.

Tollmann thus suggested that to handle the complex climate crisis of such a conflict-stricken region, national security advisors of the countries should get involved.

Climate diplomacy has a crucial role to play. Owning to such contentious situation, scientists are unable to acquire exact satellite images of the region. In the absence of such information planning mitigation and adaptation policies becomes a far bigger challenge than it should be.

Third Pole has half the world’s population sitting at their doorsteps. To address the crisis of a region as a whole which is “undergoing a complete ecosystem shift,” requires collective efforts.

Even if the faster melting of the Himalayan glaciers cannot be reversed, at least one can endeavour to stop making it worse.

The webinar was moderated by Lucy Siegel, an eminent broadcast journalist and author who specialises in environment and nature.

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