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Himalayan glacier melt threatens livelihoods, targets high elevations

Climate change is melting the Himalayan glaciers and by the end of the century, even if climate targets are met, one-third of glaciers are expected to disappear, according to the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment released Monday. This could impact water sources and food supplies and displace populations.


Christopher Dunn

Director of Cornell Botanic Gardens

Christopher Dunn, a botanist, ecologist and director of the Cornell Botanic Gardens, researches how climate change is affecting indigenous peoples. He says populations living at higher elevations will be most impacted.

Dunn says:

“Himalayan glacier melt will most definitely affect local and indigenous peoples and livelihoods. Changes in snowmelt (rate of melt, timing, etc.), depth of snowpack, and rain intensity are all affected by climate change. This leads directly to significant impacts on farming and on availability of other resources. 

“In the nearby Pamir Mountains, similar changes are occurring and being felt. It is but a matter of time before we see forced changes in livelihoods and lifestyles and, quite probably, displacement of villages and other communities. 

“It is estimated that high elevations will experience greater warming than lower ones.  Thus, those peoples who are furthest removed from the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, are the ones who will experience a disproportionate amount of impact.” 

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