The Greater Himalayas, whose glaciers supply crucial seasonal water flows to some 40 percent of the world's population, are a climate change hot spot. The Tibetan Plateau has experienced a 1 degree Celsius temperature rise in the past decade alone and the 40,000+ glaciers in these mountains are in rapid retreat, posing grave environmental and human health threats. The prospect of catastrophic changes in normal season flows (sometimes too much, and at others times too little) from this Tibetan "water tower" is real. China's foremost glacier scientist, Yao Tandong, predicts that many of China's glaciers will disappear by 2050. This rapid melting due to climate change is altering the lifestyle and livelihood of the local population by threatening to bring more flood and drought to downstream users.
The three speakers at this co-sponsored Asia Society-China Environment Forum event will address the many threats that melting glaciers pose to Asia. They will also discuss some of the challenges in collecting data and promoting cooperation to mitigate threats to the melting glaciers.
Mountaineer, photographer, and filmmaker, David Breashears, has climbed the Himalayan Mountains 5 times in the last 3 years. His photographs have shown the catastrophic loss of ice during the intervening years, and provide a visual warning of the impacts to downstream communities throughout Asia that rely on waters from these mountains.
Syed Iqbal Hasnaina is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Stimson Center. He currently serves as Chairman of the Glacier and Climate Change Commission established by the State Government of Sikkim (India). As a top Indian glaciologist, he has long advocated the impact of long-lived carbon dioxide and short-lived climate on the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers.
Orville Schell is director of the Center on U.S.- China Relations at the Asia Society. He is the author of fourteen books, nine of them about China. His most recent books are, Virtual Tibet, the China Readers; The reform Years, and Mandate of Heaven: the Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China's Leaders.