Hundreds of millions of people across South and Southeast Asia depend on waters that originate in the long-frozen reaches of the Tibetan plateau. Yet, a sobering study shows that the melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled in the last decade. The glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than 1.5 vertical foot of ice each year since 2000 — double the amount of prior decades and the latest signal that climate change is causing rapid ice loss. The world’s latest warning sign of our changing climate is a destabilizing force that can amplify existing development and security challenges.
Often referred to as the Earth’s “Third Pole,” the Himalayas hold approximately 600 billion tons of ice, making them the third largest deposit of ice and snow in the world. Rapid melting could have devastating reverberations from origins in China to downstream communities from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, some of which will face the double challenge of flooding in the near-term and water scarcity in the decades to come.