A first-of-its-kind study of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region has found that even the most ambitious Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century would lead to a 2.1 degrees rise in temperatures. This will result into melting of one-third of the region's glaciers, a critical water source for some 250 million mountain dwellers and the 1.65 billion others living in the river valleys below in the Asia.
If global climate efforts fail, the study warns current emissions would lead to five degrees rise in temperatures and a loss of two-thirds of the region's glaciers by 2100. "This is the climate crisis you have not heard of," said Philippus Wester of Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), who led the study.
"Global warming is on track to transform the frigid, glacier-covered mountain peaks of the region, cutting across eight countries, to bare rocks in a little less than a century. Impacts on people in the region, one of the world's most fragile and hazard-prone mountain regions, will range from worsened air pollution to an increase in extreme weather events."
"But it's the projected reductions in pre-monsoon river flows and changes in the monsoon that will hit hardest, throwing urban water systems and food and energy production off-kilter," he said.
Styled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, the assessment is the first and most authoritative study of its kind to provide an assessment of one of the world's most significant, yet often overlooked, mountain regions.
Developed over five years, the report includes insight by more than 350 researchers and policy experts from 22 countries and 185 organisations.
With 210 authors, 20 review editors and 125 external reviewers, the report provides an unprecedented insight into the region's distinct environment, people and wildlife.
"The size and global significance of the region is indisputable, yet this is the first report to lay down in definitive detail the region's critical importance to the well-being of billions and its alarming vulnerability, especially in the face of climate change," ICIMOD Director General David Molden said in a statement.
The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is spread over 3,500 kilometres area across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.
Though the mountainous region was formed around 70 million years ago, its glaciers are extremely sensitive to the changing climate.
Since the 1970s, when global warming came into public attention, these ice masses have steadily thinned and retreated, and snow-covered areas and the amount of snow have decreased.
These changes have ripple effects felt throughout the region, says the ICIMOD.