The Heat Is Online

Disappearance of Tibetan Glaciers Would Be "Ecological Catastrophe"

China warns of 'ecological catastrophe' from Tibet's melting glaciers

Agence France-Presse, Oct. 5, 2004

BEIJING, (AFP) - An "ecological catastrophe" is developing in Tibet because of global warming, and most glaciers in the region could have melted away by 2100 if no efficient measures are taken.

The stark message is the result of surveys performed by a group of 20 scientists from China and the United States over a 40-month period, the China Daily reported.

"The full-scale glacier shrinkage in the plateau region will eventually lead to an ecological catastrophe," Yao Tangdong, China's foremost glaciologist, said according to the paper.

Tibet's glaciers have been receding over the past four decades due to global warming, but the alarming development has picked up rapidly especially since the early 1990s, the paper said.

The joint Sino-US scientific team said it discovered a number of separated ice island at levels above 7,500 meters (25,000 feet) from sea level that used to be connected with the glaciers.

If global warming continues at its current pace, most of the plateau's glaciers will have disappeared from the face of the Earth by the turn of the next century, he warned.

Yao has emerged as a main proponent for tougher measures to protect Tibet's glaciers.

He was quoted in the state media this summer as saying global warming was causing China's highland glaciers, including those covering Mount Everest, to shrink by an amount equivalent to all the water in the Yellow River - China's second biggest - every year.

A potential silver lining in the form of additional water for China's arid north and west has not materialized, according to earlier reports.

Much of the melted glacier water vaporizes long before it reaches the country's drought-stricken farmers and again global warming is to blame.

Yao previously also told local media that as many as 64 percent of China's glaciers may be history by 2050 if current trends continue.

The human cost could be immense, since 300 million Chinese live in the country's arid west and depend on water from the glaciers for their survival.