The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region and its mighty glaciers are facing deep trouble. Even if the world achieves the most ambitious Paris Agreement goal – to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-Industrial levels – one-third of the glaciers could be lost by 2100. Under 2°C of warming, a probable yet undesirable scenario at the current time, half of the glaciers will melt away.
Worse still, if current trends continue and we reach 5°C warming, then we could be looking at losses of up to two-thirds of the region's glaciers.
These are the main findings of a 638-page report by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) that’s been compiled over the past five years by over 350 scientists and policy experts from 22 countries and 185 organizations.
When you hear about climate change and melting glaciers, you will most likely think about the Arctic and Antartica. However, the HKH’s sheer quantity of ice means it’s sometimes referred to as the world’s “Third Pole”.
“This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” Philippus Wester, chief scientist of Water Resources Management at the ICIMOD, said in a statement. “Global warming is on track to transform the frigid, glacier-covered mountain peaks of the HKH cutting across eight countries to bare rocks in a little less than a century."
Home to Everest, K2, and many other record-smashing peaks, the HKH spans an area across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. It also supplies water to a fifth of the world's population and contains a wealth of unique biodiversity. Given this importance, any level of melting in the HKH could potentially spell some serious fallout.