Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region Vulnerable To Climate Change, New Study Says

12/08/2011 03:28 pm ET

A series of reports released this week suggest that some of the world's highest mountains are at risk due to climate change.

The threat of climate change to the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, home to Mount Everest and many of the world's other tallest mountains, was examined in three reports by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The reports, which coincide with the ongoing U.N. climate conference in Durban, South Africa, represent the most current set of data on climate change in the region and on the "number and extent of glaciers and the patterns of snowfall in the world's most mountainous region," according to an ICIMOD press release.

The organization concedes that although there are 54,000 glaciers in the region, only 10 have been studied enough to chronicle the net ice and snow loss. With the data they possess, ICIPOD says, "Glaciers appear to be shrinking in both the central and eastern Himalayas."

Scientists are concerned with change in the region's fragile ecosystems and the possibility that melting glaciers may affect the lives of the 1.3 billion people who live in the river basins downstream of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said in a statement, "These reports provide a new baseline and location-specific information for understanding climate change in one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world."

While the IPCC maintains their view that the region's glaciers are melting, they have changed their stance from 2009 when they suggested that the region's glaciers will disappear by 2035, reports UPI.

Despite the IPCC's suggestion that more research is needed to determine the exact changes across the region, the glacial loss they have discovered is not insignificant. Alertnet reports that Nepal's glaciers have shrunk by 21 percent and Bhutan's by 22 percent in the last 30 years.

To read ICIMOD's three reports, visit their Mountain Day website.

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