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  • Glaciers within the Third Pole

    Glaciers within the Third Pole | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 September 2017

The effects could be catastrophic to freshwater access, irrigation and ecosystems across the region.

Over half of the “Third Pole”, a chain of glaciers located around Asia’s Tibetan plateau, will melt by 2100.

A study by Utrecht University in the Netherlands says that even if the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change is met and temperatures rise by 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-Industrial levels, at least 53 percent will be lost.

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The “Third Pole” as scientists refer to it, holds the third largest amount of potential freshwater on earth. The frozen mass contains almost 5,000 gigatons of ice and stretches over 100,000 square kilometers from Afghanistan in the east to to Central China in the west.

These glaciers feed into the Yangtze, Ganges and Mekong rivers, which billions of people depend on for fresh water. The effects of this abrupt change could be catastrophic to freshwater access, irrigation and ecosystems across Asia.

The authors add that people are not doing a good enough job to reach the 1.5 degree Celsius benchmark agreed in Paris, and say even at today’s rate of warming, 14 percent of the Third Pole will melt. Worse still, temperatures across this entire region are, on average, 2 degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial temperatures.

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