Millions at risk of water shortages as Asian glaciers melt

Asian glaciers are set to shrink by at least a third by 2100 due to climate change, researchers said on Thursday, threatening the millions who depend on their meltwaters for drinking and farming.

Asian glaciers are set to shrink by at least a third by 2100 due to climate change, researchers said on Thursday.

The experts warn this could threaten the millions who depend on their meltwaters for drinking, farming and hydro-electricity.

The scientists' prediction is based on an assumption the world will limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - although many expect Earth will be much hotter than this by the end of the century.

More than one billion people across Asia depend on rivers like the Yangtze, Ganges and Mekong, which are fed by Himalayan glaciers. Snowfall provides moisture for farms and pastures and melts into rivers and streams

More than one billion people across Asia depend on rivers like the Yangtze, Ganges and Mekong, which are fed by Himalayan glaciers. Snowfall provides moisture for farms and pastures and melts into rivers and streams

GLACIERS' ROLE IN SEA LEVEL RISE

The rise in global sea levels has accelerated since the 1990s, according to a recent study.

Sea levels have risen by about 20 cm in the past century and many scientific studies project a steady acceleration this century as man-made global warming melts more ice on land.

Early satellite data had exaggerated the rate of sea level rise in the 1990s, masking the recent acceleration. 

A thaw of Greenland's ice sheet accounted for more than 25 per cent of the sea level rise in 2014 against just five per cent in 1993.

Other sources include loss of glaciers from the Himalayas to the Andes, Antarctica's ice sheet anda  natural expansion of ocean water as it warms up from its most dense at 4°C (39.2°F).

'As we have already considerably warmed the earth since the industrial era, we have caused an imbalance of the glaciers,' said Philip Kraaijenbrink, the study's author and a geography researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

'We observe their retreat almost everywhere on the globe. 

Even if we (do) not warm the climate any more at all, starting today, 14 percent of the ice will be lost,' he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Under the Paris climate accord, countries pledged to keep the rise in average global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

But scientists say there is a 90 percent chance this target will not be met as temperatures are already 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

More than one billion people across Asia depend on rivers like the Yangtze, Ganges and Mekong, which are fed by Himalayan glaciers. 

Snowfall provides moisture for farms and pastures and melts into rivers and streams.

The scientists' prediction is based on an assumption the world will limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - although many expect Earth will be much hotter than this by the end of the century

The scientists' prediction is based on an assumption the world will limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - although many expect Earth will be much hotter than this by the end of the century

If limited efforts are made to prevent climate change and the world reaches a 4 degree Celsius rise, the glaciers could shrink by as much as two-thirds by 2100, the study found.

For each degree of global warming avoided, 7 percent of ice in Asian glaciers would be saved, researchers said.

Asian glaciers are warming faster than the rest of the planet and are already about 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, they said.