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Scientists warn Asia will feel impacts of rapid climate change in Tibet

November 30, 2015

By Adam Justice

IB Times, November 25, 2015 - Lying 4,700m above sea level on the Tibetan plateau is Namtso Lake. It is held as holy by the regions Tibetan population and every year thousands of pilgrims walk around its shores. As one of the largest lakes on the plateau, Namtso is fed partly by run-off from the regions glaciers, which also acts as a store of water for the surrounding grasslands, experts have said.

The glaciers are a symbol [of the seasons], when the weather gets warm the ice will melt and in the winter it gets cold it turns to ice, said Namgye, a herder who has lived in Damshung, where the lake is located his, entire life.

However, while the pace of life for many Tibetans remains unchanged, the lake itself is changing. Between the years 2000 and 2014, Namtso expanded by an area of around 50km2, a consequence of ever increasing glacier melting triggered by some of the fastest temperature rises on the planet, data from the Qinghai-Tibet Research Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences released in 2014 showed.

Glaciers in the Tibetan Autonomous Region have shrunk by 15% over the past 30 years. Annual run-off from glaciers rose from 61.5bn m3 to 79.5bn c3 during the same period, researchers with the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Chinese state media in late 2014.

One academic who has been monitoring the impact of climate change on the Tibetan way of life said the glaciers were melting faster today than 20-40 years ago.

The glaciers both in the Himalayan region and glaciers in the northern plateau region are melting must faster than compared to say 20, 30 or 40 years ago, and particularly recently, 20 years, we have some of the small glaciers disappearing from the ChangChang region and some of the lakes increasing because the water coming more from the glacier side. So the global warming there is a strong impact on the Tibetan plateau, particularly for the glaciers, Dawa Tsering said.

Scientists warned in 2009 that if melting continues at current levels, two-thirds of the plateaus glaciers will likely be gone by 2050, potentially affecting up to two billion people in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

As the world’s leaders prepare to convene in Paris for climate change talks, activists point to what is happening in Tibet as a clear early warning sign for the consequences of global warming. Close to 200 countries will meet in Paris in December to try to hammer out a deal to slow man-made climate change.

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