According to a new study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Science, the glaciers on Mt. Everest have shrunk by more than 28% over the past 40 years, with the majority of that shrinkage coming since the 1980's.
The report, which was released a few days back, places the blame squarely on climate change. The study indicates that Everest has been getting warmer for the past 50 years, but that increase in temperature has started to occur more rapidly in recent decades.
The glaciers that surround Everest are a major source of water throughout Asia, and as they have shrunk in size, the glacial lakes found throughout the region, as well as the rivers that they feed, have swelled. Researchers found one lake in Tibet's Mt. Everest nature preserve grew from 100 sq. km (62 sq. miles) in the 1990's, to 114 sq. km (70 sq. miles) in 2013.
As the melting continues, it could have major consequences throughout Asia. In the short term, flooding could become more of an issue, with increased erosion causing damage to the surrounding countryside, to to mention threatening villages and people living along the banks of the many streams and rivers that find their source in the more than 1400 glaciers that are found throughout the region. But in the long term, the loss of the glaciers will ultimately lead to less water, which could have dire consequences for farmers and for those who rely on power generated by hydro sources.
Another report that was released earlier in the year indicated that of the 5500 glaciers that fall across the Hindu Kush and Himalaya region, most could lose 70%-99% of their mass by the year 2100. The impact that those changes would have on the region would be devastating.
Climate change is real, its impacting our planet, and the consequences it holds for our future are frightening. It doesn't matter who or what is causing it, we need to take steps now to try to first slow its advances, and then eventually reverse its impact. That isn't going to be easy, but if we intend to leave the Earth for future generations to explore as well, it is a necessity.