Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Meltdown Alarm: Nepal's mountains lost one-third of their ice in 30 years from global warming

On a recent visit to Solukhumbu, the area surrounding Mount Everest, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rang an alarm for the world. In his words, "I am here today to cry out from the rooftop of the world: The glaciers are retreating, stop the madness"

Published: Nov 3, 2023 04:02:00 PM IST
Updated: Nov 3, 2023 04:08:29 PM IST

Meltdown Alarm: Nepal's mountains lost one-third of their ice in 30 years from global warmingImage: Alex Treadway/ICIMOD/Handout via REUTERS
A file photo of water forming under Nepal's Khumbu glacier as the ice melts. Glaciers in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya could lose up to 75 percent of their volume by century's end due to global warming, scientists from the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development said in a report, causing dangerous flooding and water shortages for nearly 2 billion people who live in the mountainous region.

Meltdown Alarm: Nepal's mountains lost one-third of their ice in 30 years from global warmingImage: Tshering SHERPA / AFP
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits the Syangboche in the Everest region of Solukhumbu district on October 30, 2023. Guterres said that shrinking glaciers would cause major Himalayan rivers like the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra to reduce flows massively, decimating deltas and precipitating shortages for the millions of people living downstream. He implored, "We must end the fossil fuel age, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, to avert the worst of climate chaos."

Meltdown Alarm: Nepal's mountains lost one-third of their ice in 30 years from global warmingImage: Kami Rita Sherpa/Handout via REUTERS
Kami Rita Sherpa, 53, a Nepali Mountaineer who climbed Mount Everest for a record 28 times, is pictured on the summit of Mount Everest during his 28th summit in Everest, May 23, 2023. Many prominent Sherpas from the community, growing up on the foothills of the snow-covered mountain they worship as the mother of the world, are startled and have been campaigning for years to save the Himalayan peaks and surrounding areas from the effects of global warming.

Meltdown Alarm: Nepal's mountains lost one-third of their ice in 30 years from global warmingImage: Bidhan Shrestha/Handout via REUTERS
Debris from the leftover tents, mountain equipment and food wraps are pictured at camp four in Everest, Nepal, May 19, 2023, in this screengrab obtained from a handout video. Recently, the Nepali government has proposed to move the Everest base camp to an elevation of 200 to 400 metres lower, away from the Khumbu Glacier—which is melting and shifting—to mitigate the risks of glacial melting due to increasing temperatures.

Meltdown Alarm: Nepal's mountains lost one-third of their ice in 30 years from global warmingImage: Tika Gurung/Handout via REUTERS
View of the icemelt landscape at Langtang, Nepal in this undated handout image. The report from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu finds that glaciers in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya mountain range region melted 65 percent faster from 2010 through 2019 than in the previous decade. The changes to the glaciers, snow and permafrost of the region driven by global warming were "unprecedented and largely irreversible".

Meltdown Alarm: Nepal's mountains lost one-third of their ice in 30 years from global warmingImage: Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images
Tibetan snowcock (Tetraogallus tibetanus) is looking for food at the slopes of Gokyo Ri in Solukhumbu. Melting glaciers are destabilizing the landscape and raising the risks of hazards like floods and landslides. These rapid changes are squeezing much of the region's unique wildlife into smaller and more precarious habitats.