Post Mortem

Reducing the global emissions

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/18/2020 8:54:37 AM IST

 The latest findings published in the edition of Global Change Biology Journal say that global warming is making the snow-clad Hindu Kush region greener with scientists finding the shrubs and grass appearing across certain areas in the Himayas. This has raised fear of possible flooding in the region because plants could absorb more light and warm the ice. The Hindu Kush is a part of the Himalayas and this region extends 3500 km over all or part of eight countries from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. Everest, K2, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna are some of the highest peaks in the Hindu Kush region.

The Hindu Kush is a formidable mountain range to cross with most peaks being between 4,400 and 5,200m, and some much higher. The mountains experience heavy snowfall and blizzards. This is also the region from where fresh water originates out of the snow, glaciers and rainfall, which feed the ten largest river systems in Asia. Together these rivers support the drinking water, irrigation, energy, industry and sanitation needs of 1.3 billion people living in the mountains and downstream. This valuable resource is under increasing threat now. Also, this region is warming about three times faster than the global average. Human activities, most notably agriculture are timed with the seasonal flows of water and predictable cycles of rain. However, as the region warms, the hydrological cycle becomes more unpredictable, at times with too much or too little water. The effects on people, communities and ecosystem can be devastating with the most visible impacts including catastrophic floods, landslides and droughts.
The scientists have been consistently warning that glacial cover in the region is on decline due to global warming.  The main author of the study, Dr. Karen Anderson of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall said, “ There are now more areas that are covered in plants than there were in 1993.” Though the study did not give the definite reason for increase in the green cover, the scientists warned the phenomenon could increase flooding in the valley. The Himalayan Mountains are the third largest deposit of ice in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic. In the near future, melting glaciers will increase river flows and push up the risk of high-altitude lakes bursting their banks and engulfing communities. However, from the year 2060, river flows will go into decline. The Indus and central Asian rivers will be most affected and those areas will be hard hit. 
Climate change has already had observable effects on Himalayan communities. A study published last year in Science Advances said that Himalayan’s glaciers lost billions of tones of ice –equivalent to more than a vertical foot and half of ice each year from 2000 to 2016, which is double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000 revealing that the ice loss is accelerating with rising temperatures. It is feared that two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers, the world’s, ‘Third Pole’ could melt by 2100 if global emissions are not reduced. Even if global warming is able to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, one-third of the glaciers would go. So the alarm bell has rung and if each one of us does not join the effort of reducing the global emissions, the Hindu Kush region with snow clad mountains and valleys would soon vanish by 2100 portending a natural disaster unheard of in the history of the world.
T K Nandanan, Kochi

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