Mountain areas show signs of global warming, UN environment agency reports
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today reported "startling" evidence of the effect of global warming on the Himalayas.
A recent UN-backed mission to the area found that the glacier from where Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay set out to conquer Everest nearly 50 years ago has retreated by around five kilometres up the mountain.
"The evidence of climate change was all around us, from huge scars gouged in the landscapes by sudden, glacial floods to the lakes swollen by melting glaciers," said Roger Payne, of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, who served on the expedition. "It is clear that global warming is emerging as one, if not the, biggest threat to mountain areas."
The seven-member expedition, which set out from Kathmandu on 16 May, returned on 1 June after climbing on Island Peak in the Khumbu Region of Nepal. Team members also spoke with the area's residents, who voiced stark concern about the impact of global warming. They reported "quite rapid and significant changes over the past 20 years in the ice fields," said team member Ian McNaught-Davis.
UNEP scientists, working with experts based in Kathmandu, have used satellites and on-the-ground studies to pinpoint 44 glacial lakes in Nepal and Bhutan that are now so swollen they could burst their banks in as little as five years.
In another development, the environment agency and its partners today announced the launch of an Internet-based Oceans Atlas, which UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer called "the first comprehensive 'real-time' way to observe the state of world's oceans."
The Atlas provides users with continuously updated maps as well as strategic data on the state of the world's oceans, development trends and threats to human health from the deteriorating marine environment. It can be accessed online at www.oceansatlas.org.