The World’s Third Pole Is Melting

March 29, 2019 By Dechen Palmo*

How can Asian countries survive without Tibetan glaciers and water?

The Diplomat, March 28, 2019

The Tibetan plateau, which holds the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) ice sheet, is known as the world’s “Third Pole.” It holds the largest number of glaciers and snow after the Arctic and Antarctic. The Tibetan plateau has more than 46,000 glaciers, 14.5 percent of the world’s total. These glaciers give birth to Asia’s major river systems — the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers that provide lifelines to many countries and support a population of around 2 billion people.

But due to climate change, the Tibetan plateau’s glaciers are depleting faster than anywhere else on earth. The loss of Tibetan glaciers means the loss of livelihood for the people who are dependent on these rivers — over a quarter of the world’s total population.

 

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