As Climate Change Threatens Mount Everest, 'Save Our Snow' Campaign Begins
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Kathmandu/Patna: Amidst climate change threatening Mount Everest, the Earth's tallest mountain, leading mountain bodies and mountain partnerships have launched a campaign called "Save Our Snow" to preserve Earth's snow and ice before it is too late.
With global warming significantly affecting the glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) based in Kathmandu, supported by mountain institutes globally, including the Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Mountain Partnership (the United Nations voluntary alliance of partners), is urging members of the public to support the #SaveOurSnow campaign.
Within the first 48 hours of its launch until Monday (29th May), more than 1,000 people, including the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, diplomats, legendary climbers, and eminent earth scientists, signed ICIMOD's Save Our Snow declaration. The declaration calls on governments to fulfil their commitments under the Paris Agreement, make rapid and significant emission reductions, cease all new coal, oil, and gas exploration, and accelerate the transition to renewable energy.
"Today, 70 years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first scaled Mount Everest, the mountain is undergoing unprecedented and largely irreversible change caused by global warming. Rising global temperatures are endangering the environment of Everest and the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region, which spans 3,500 km across eight countries. Scientists project that two-thirds of glaciers in the region will disappear in the next 70 years under the current emissions scenario," stated a release from the Save Our Snow campaign by ICIMOD.
The campaign encourages the public to share stories and photographs from mountains around the world, highlighting climate impacts using the hashtag #SaveOurSnow, and sign a declaration urging governments to honour their commitments to limit warming to 1.5 degrees at www.icimod.org/saveoursnow/declaration/.
According to the release, the 79 glaciers surrounding Everest have thinned by over 100 metres in just six decades, and the thinning rate has nearly doubled since 2009. Among these is the iconic Khumbu glacier, the starting point for most expeditions, including Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's decades ago, which scientists say is on the verge of vanishing and shrinking.
"The HKH region is witnessing an increase in adverse impacts from climate change, which will only intensify in frequency and severity. The detrimental effects of global warming are already evident throughout the Hindu Kush Himalaya, with record-breaking heatwaves, droughts, natural disasters, unpredictable snowfall, and substantial and mostly irreversible glacial melt. We urgently need global action to protect the lives and livelihoods of the two billion people in this region and to safeguard the countless irreplaceable lifeforms that exist only here," said Pema Gyamtsho, ICIMOD Director General.
Gyamtsho emphasised that the HKH is home to 240 million people, and nearly a quarter of the world's population relies on the water flowing from its mountains. Therefore, the fight against climate change is of critical importance and requires immediate global action.
Kilian Jornet, a world-leading endurance athlete and ski mountaineer, stated, "Everest is changing rapidly. Over the years, I have personally witnessed how mountains are being affected by climate change at an unprecedented pace. The melting of glaciers not only makes mountains more dangerous for climbers but, more importantly, jeopardises the lives of the billions of people dependent on their resources."
Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa, ICIMOD glaciologist and grandson of Kanchha Sherpa, the last surviving member of the first expedition, said, "Those of us who study, live, or climb the mountains are firsthand witnesses to the alarming rate of changes occurring in our cryosphere, often caused by actions taken millions of miles away. We call upon everyone who cherishes these fragile places to raise their voice about the consequences of continued inaction on emissions reductions and to demand that world leaders and businesses accelerate the transition to renewables to save our snow."
The Save Our Snow campaign aligns with the commencement of the United Nations' "Five Years of Action for the Development of Mountain Regions," declared in a resolution co-sponsored by 110 governments, recognising the importance of protecting mountain people and environments from climate change and other ongoing global challenges.
Rosalaura Romeo, Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, stated, "The next five years, 2023-2027, have been declared by the United Nations as Five Years of Action for the Development of Mountain Regions. This is the opportune moment for members and allies of the Mountain Partnership, including governments, communities, and civil society organisations, to unite in conserving mountain ecosystems and safeguarding the future of people and the planet."
The climate emergency has arrived for Earth's tallest mountain, 70 years after the first ascent, with the projected disappearance of two-thirds of the Hindu Kush Himalayan glaciers by the end of the century.
According to the release, signatories of the Save Our Snow campaign include Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Renate Christ, former Chair of the International Panel for Climate Change; legendary climber Reinhold Messner; descendants of Norgay and Hillary; Samuel Sidiqi, the first Afghan to summit Everest; Naila Kiani, the first Pakistani woman to summit six 8,000+ metre mountains; Jornet, and hundreds of earth scientists from the Hindu Kush Himalaya region.
Dr Carolina Adler, Executive Director of the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), commented, "As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest, we are reminded of the significant challenges we still face in addressing climate change. On behalf of the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), we wholeheartedly support the urgent plea from mountain communities, climbers, and scientists for immediate global action to tackle climate change. We encourage the mountain research community to join us in amplifying these efforts by signing the declaration and sharing firsthand stories that highlight the transformations in our changing mountains. Let's support the call to protect Earth's mountains, snow, and ice."
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