Mountain regions in the world have experienced above-average warming in recent years. More than 50 % of the world’s population depends on water resources from the mountains. The Himalaya- HK-region is currently providing the necessary water for large parts of the population in Asia. But the current pace in glacier melting as an impact of climate change has significant implications for the ecosystem goods and services the mountain regions provide to humanity, which are especially critical for the survival of poor and indigenous communities.
Even in Sweden the glaciers are melting at an unforeseen pace and measurements of the highest peak, the southern peak of Kebnekaise, covered by a small glacier, in September showed that the top now only reaches 2099.7 m a.s.l., which is the very lowest that has ever been measures and is calculated as the lowest level during the last 1000 years! And the melting speed has increased steadily, not only in Sweden and the Himalayas but also at other high mountain regions. Even the glaciers and large ice masses at Greenland, Arctic and Antarctic are currently increasing their melting pace.
This increasing melting is beyond what scientists have calculated and what is shown in different scenarios as we so far have "only" increased the mean temperature by about 1oC. The impact by the glacier melting in the Himalayas, in particularly as Glacier Lake Outburst Floods, GLOFs, was emphasized in an early version of the NAPA-document of the government of Nepal, and is also described as what can cause catastrophes in valleys also in the NAPA of 2010. This of course may cause detrimental effects to the living conditions for the people living in the valleys. The melting of the Himalaya glaciers may result in an early flood situation and, above all, access to water will be very undeterminable.
Scientists also warn for that the rapid melting of the larger ice masses may result in a more rapidly sea level rise which then would threaten a important amount of world’s population living in low-lying areas, close to the sea.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, ICIMOD, is arranging a Mountain Day on December 4th, 2011, at the UNFCCC COP-17 in Durban, South Africa. This day will assemble a high-level panel to advocate the value and the critical role of mountains and thereby promote policy actions to ensure the contribution of mountain ecosystem goods and services in particularly the vital access to water.