Vulnerable to change
High Asia is dominated by many steep, dramatic mountain ranges that run through parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, India, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries. The region is home to more than 50,000 glaciers that are vital water lifelines to Asia's largest rivers, including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Indus and Ganges. Roughly two billion people depend on these rivers for their water and food supply.
Unfortunately, many people who live in High Asia and along the river basins fed by the region's glaciers already experience malnutrition and food insecurity, insufficient access to clean water and sanitation, and other issues that will be exacerbated by climate change and population growth. The challenge for agencies like USAID is to incorporate climate change into their existing development efforts so that quality of life continues to improve in the developing world.
"This report lays out what are the potential impacts of glacier melt on sectors such as health and agriculture while exploring how USAID programs could respond to the challenges of changing water supplies," Melnyk said.
More information needed
Although the world's glaciers have slowly been retreating since 1850 the end of what climate scientists refer to as the Little Ice Age those in High Asia haven't melted as quickly, mostly due to the glaciers' location in elevations higher and colder than many other glacier systems, the report notes.
But there's little historical information about High Asian glaciers to predict their future. The data that does exist consists mostly of physical measurements taken at the glaciers' most accessible spots, their lowest ends. Glaciers are dynamic and routinely grow in some areas while sh
|Contact: Franny White|
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory