NEW DELHI — Rising temperatures in the Himalayas, home to most of the world’s tallest mountains, will melt at least one-third of the region’s glaciers by the end of the century even if the world’s most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a report released Monday.
If global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, the Himalayas could heat up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) by 2100, according to the report, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment.
Those starker numbers would translate to a loss of two-thirds of glaciers in the region, plus radical disruptions to food and water supplies, and mass population displacement.
Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region, which spans over 2,000 miles of Asia, provide water resources to around a quarter of the world’s population.
“This is a climate crisis you have not heard of,” said Philippus Wester, a lead author of the report. “Impacts on people in the region, already one of the world’s most fragile and hazard-prone mountain regions, will range from worsened air pollution to an increase in extreme weather events.”
One of the most complete studies on mountain warming, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment was put together over five years by 210 authors. The report includes input from more than 350 researchers and policymakers from 22 countries.
In October, a landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change found that if greenhouse gas emissions continued at the current rate, the atmosphere would warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040.
Avoiding damage from a rise this steep would require transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent,” the report said.
In the Himalayas, warming under this scenario would probably be even higher, at 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2.1 degrees Celsius), the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment found. Across the world, glacier volumes are projected to decline up to 90 percent this century from decreased snowfall, increased snowline elevations and longer melt seasons.