New report highlights risk of global warming at Third Pole

A new report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has highlighted the importance of the third pole and its vulnerability to climate change. One of the authors of the report is Deliang Chen, a professor at the University of Gothenburg.

The third pole is an area that covers more than five million square kilometers and stretches from Afghanistan in the west to China in the east. It includes the Pamir-Hindu Kush, Himalayan, Hengduan, Tienshan and Qilian mountain ranges.

A scientific assessment of the third pole shows that the region has warmed nearly twice the global average and received significantly increased precipitation. The impact of this is that lake levels have risen by 0.14 meters per year, greening of vegetation has occurred earlier and wilting later and permafrost has degraded.

More extreme events

“It is very clear that human-induced global warming is causing increased global warming on the Tibetan Plateau,” said Deliang Chen, one of the report’s authors and a professor at the University of Gothenburg, “this warming is significantly higher than global global warming”. mean.”

A scientific assessment of the third pole, produced by UNEP, shows that warming and increased precipitation at the third pole leads to changes in seasonal distribution and increased variability. This means that the seasons are less reliable and there are more extreme events such as floods, droughts and more disasters such as ice collapses.

“The risk of disaster is increasing,” Chen said, “as water availability generally increases right now, due to melting glaciers and increasing or changing seasonality of rainfall, we are seeing that some rivers have already passed their water peak, while other rivers will do so in the coming decades.Long term, there is concern about water scarcity.


Deliang Chen, professor at the University of Gothenburg.

Photo: Malin Arnesson

Most of the population of the third pole depends on agriculture for a living, the increased variability, increased floods and droughts and rising temperatures put all their livelihoods at risk.

“The changes between years and seasons are getting bigger,” Chen said, “we will also see more flash floods and more ice collapse.”

Threatened species at risk

The report also highlights the risks that human-induced climate change could have on native species in the region. The Third Pole is home to over 169 animals on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, representing over 9% of all animals in the Third Pole.

Of these animals on the IUCN Red List, 16 are critically endangered, 66 endangered and 87 marked as vulnerable. These include the snow leopard, giant panda, Tibetan antelope, and black-necked crane.

“It’s a unique region,” Chen said, “it needs to be protected.”

Link to the report:A Scientific Assessment of the Third Pole Environment | UNEP – United Nations Environment Program

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Teresa H. Sadler