Worldfocus has selected four multimedia pieces from the Tibetan Plateau in Peril series that address climate change in Tibet, where glacial melting threatens to diminish the water supply for all of Asia — leading to potentially disastrous consequences for almost half the world’s population.
The plateau feeds most of the major river systems from China to Pakistan, including the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus. But the rapid retreat of its glaciers has jeopardized what glaciologist Lonnie Thompson has termed Asia’s “fresh water bank account.”
Rivers and lakes have depleting water levels, pastures are becoming drier, deserts are expanding and weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable. The Tibetan Plateau’s ecosystem are moving toward an environmental catastrophe that will have continental implications far beyond Tibet.
An ancient Chinese proverb: When you drink the water, think about its source. Signs of water scarcity in the Yellow River watershed can be seen all the way back to its origin in Qinghai, where glaciers melt on the slopes of the sacred Tibetan mountain Anyemaqen.
The warming climate has endangered the human habitat in this area of the Tibetan Plateau. And hundreds of millions of people at lower altitudes in northern China are threatened by the Yellow River’s demise.
Read more about the Tibetan Plateau by Michael Zhao in the Far Eastern Economic Review and World Policy Journal, and watch Less Blessed: Anyemaqen, Glaciers and the Yellow River:
The next piece is a bleak visual tour of some of the world’s highest glaciers in the Himalayas: at the foot of Mt. Everest, in eastern Qinghai province and in the Tianshan Mountains of Xinjiang province.
See what these giant ice sheets looked like decades ago and how much they have thinned down. The alarming images document lakes expanding due to accelerated glacial meltdown and also lakes shrinking due to desertification at lower altitudes.
In the fall of 2007 and again in 2008, David Breashears traveled to the Chinese face of Mt. Everest, a mountain he has climbed five times. His goal was not to scale the peak but to see series of ledges and outcroppings on Everest’s western side.
Breashears brought photos taken in a 1921 expedition to survey Everest. Returning to the exact same locations, Breashears recreated the photos — pixel for pixel.