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Melting of Himalayan Glaciers

An assessment titled “The Hindukush Himalayas Assessment mountains, climate change, sustainability and people” warns that the world's third pole is under severe threat from climate change.

What does the report say?

The report was prepared by the International Center for integrated Mountain development, a Nepal based intergovernmental organization.

1. The report states even the goals set out by the Paris agreement to limit global warming would lead to a 2.1 spike in temperature in the Hindu Kush region.

2. It will lead to melting a 1/3 of the region's glaciers by 2100, potentially destabilizing Asia’s rivers.

3. It also states that melting threatens water sources for millions of people even if current efforts to reduce climate change succeed.

4. The report claims less attention has been devoted to the region than to other areas considered more vulnerable to global warming.

Why is Hindukush important?

1. The Hindukush Himalayan region spans eight countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

2. It is referred to as the third Pole together with China's Tian Shan Mountains as it holds the most ice outside the North and South Poles.

3. It is also having some of world's tallest mountains including Mount Everest and K2.

4. Its glaciers are the source of water for the agriculture that feeds nearly two billion people.

5. These glaciers also feed into the river system including the Indus, Ganga, Yangtze, Irrawaddy, and Mekong.

How did it happen?

1. Temperatures are rising faster in the mountains than at the lower elevations, a phenomenon called “elevation-dependent warming”.

2. One theory state that when snow and ice melt, the heat reflecting properties of the white cover disappear.

3. The black rock below absorbs more heat and increases the melt.

4. This means that even if global warming is limited, the Hindukush Himalayan region will see a greater increase in temperature.

Where the impact of Climate Change can be seen?

1. Melting glaciers will increase river flows through to 2050 to 2060 pushing up the risk of high-altitude lakes bursting their banks and engulfing communities. But from 2060s rivers flows will go into decline.

2. The increasing number of devastating hurricanes is also being attributed to climate change.

3. Oceans have absorbed most of the extra heat and carbon dioxide more than the air making the seas both warmer and more acidic.

4. Warm and acidic waters are bleaching coral reefs, driving stronger storms and collapsing marine food chains.

5. Climate Change is a major threat to agriculture as it is vitally connected to the climate’s normal patterns.

6. Farms are more likely to face attacks from weeds, diseases, and pests which affect yield.

7. A warmer atmosphere increases the formation of ground-level ozone also known as smog in polluted regions.

8. Sea levels could rise, threatening coastal areas and islands, pushing wildlife to extinction.

9. Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger, floods and droughts, mega-disasters will become more common. (Megadisasters - 5000 dead or more.)

10. Lower flows in rivers will cut power from the hydro dams.

11. Rising global temperature also creates a negative intergenerational inequality.

Which are the measures taken to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change?

International community:

1. In 1992 the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was established to stop dangerous human interference with climate.

2. At the Paris climate conference, 195 countries adopted the first ever universal legally binding global climate deal.

3. The agreement set out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

India’s measure:

1. International solar Alliance:

a) The initiative was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of 2015 by the President of France and PM of India.

b) It is an alliance of more than 121 countries most of them being sunshine countries

c) The primary objective is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

2. National Clean Air Program:

a) Under this, a long term and time-bound national level strategy were built up to tackle the increasing air pollution problems across India in a comprehensive manner.

b) First National Air Quality Index was also launched to monitor the quality of air in major urban centers across the country on a real-time basis.

3. Expansion of LPG connection among rural poor has cut down household air pollution and protect health, particularly of women.

4. “Say no to plastics” initiative of the government aims at reducing the use of single-use plastics.

5. Six waste management rules were notified by the Government, making waste management a priority issue.

6. To reduce emissions and car fuel imports the government is buying 10,000 battery-powered cars to replace petrol and diesel cars.

7. India has made huge progress towards implementing the 2030 sustainable development goal targets which integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development.

8. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Namami Ganga Programme are also playing a major role in protecting the environment.

When can these effects be overcome?

1. Greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced, or else the world will continue to witness an upward trend in global average temperatures.

2. A bigger push to make diesel, petrol, and coal as negative sources of energy will reduce emissions.

3. Climate change adaptation and mitigation has to go hand in hand.