Mt Everest in December 2019. Photo: Kunda Dixit, Nepali Times
My article published in this week’s issue of Nepali Times:
Mt Everest is melting : Are you moved?
In the coming decade, climate migration may finally make world leaders take action to slow global heating
Mount Everest has always held mythical status for me, like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza. Growing up on the ‘other side of the world’ I knew about them from a very young age: their mystery was seeded in my imagination as a schoolboy in Canada.
I have not visited the Great Wall or the pyramids, but I remember the mountain flight that took me close to Everest about 12 years ago. It was cloudy when we left Kathmandu but clear enough that the rocky triangle above the Lhotse-Nuptse ridge could be pointed out as we flew past in our tiny plane.
Photo: Marty Logan
One of Kathmandu’s biggest defects is the lack of green spaces. Luckily I’ve found one. It’s tiny, and certainly not where you would expect it, but its positive impact is huge. In fact, for many years now I’ve been fortunate to enjoy nature in different forms. in many cities.
I wrote more about this in this week’s Nepali Times:
When I’ve had enough of the smog, barking dogs, crowds and cacophony of Kathmandu I seek out my ‘oasis’, a small piece of green real estate that, I’m sure, slows my heartbeat and lowers my blood pressure on sight in — Dilibazar.
Yes, that’s right, Dilibazar, one of the oldest suburbs of 20th-century Kathmandu, once known for its sweet shops and the derelict Charkhal Jail, but today recognisable by the educational consultancies and their billboards — ‘Study in Australia, Canada, Cyprus, England, Greece, Ireland! — that have spilled onto its streets from Putali Sadak. It’s definitely not the first place that comes to mind when you think of Kathmandu and nature. Continue reading
Bhutanese politician Tshering Togbay holds up a copy of the ICIMOD assessment that predicts 2/3 of glaciers in the Hindu-Kush mountains will melt by 2100 if current global warming continues.
This short TED talk is a short, clear description of why everyone in the world should care that Mt Everest and its neighbours are melting.
Hint: the Hindu-Kush mountains are also known as the 3rd Pole, and the water that flows from them nourishes the lives of more than 2 billion people in Asia.
Tshering Togbay, a politician from Bhutan, presents a scary scenario here but as he makes clear, inaction is not an option.
His suggestion is to create a new body of all the governments in the Hindu-Kush, with particularly active involvement from giants – and major greenhouse gas producers – China and India. It’s easy to dismiss yet another government ‘talk shop’ but if the leaders of countries at risk won’t take action, who will?
As the ‘custodian’ of Mt Everest, the Nepal Government must make changes to how it manages the precious global resource. But far below, leaders are struggling to overcome other obstacles that block the country’s graduation from least-developing country status.
Earlier this month a National Geographic team set up the world’s highest weather station, very close to the peak of Mt Everest. Its purpose is to monitor the Central Asian Jet Stream, to see how winds and moisture move above 29,000 feet and affect the warming climate. In effect the multinational team has also opened a window to the land where glaciers are born.
With great potential for gleaning information about this much celebrated, increasingly exploited, but little known environment, the weather stations are a exciting advance. Yet you get the feeling that the die is already cast: like its neighbours in the Himalaya Hindu-Kush (HKH) range, Everest is melting.
2/3 of glaciers could melt by 2100
The worst-case scenario in a recent assessment predicts that two-thirds of glaciers in the HKH, which spans from Afghanistan to China, will melt by 2100. Earlier last week another team of scientists announced they found the internal temperatures of the Khumbu glacier on Everest to be higher than expected, just -3.3C. They predicted accelerated melting in the short term, followed by flooding, droughts and unstable, dangerous conditions for climbers.
This climate peril illustrates the double-barrel challenge facing countries like Nepal: they must provide the basics expected from an increasingly wealthy, globally-savvy population — such as infrastructure, health and education — and at the same time confront global threats like the climate crisis and deadly non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that bedevil rich and poor countries alike. Continue reading
This photo from Nepali Times shows green and blue melt pools on the North Ama Dablam Glacier, where the vanishing icefall has exposed the eroded bedrock below.
I remember the first time I looked up at the Himalayan range from Nepal: I was dumbstruck. It seemed like I had to tilt my head back an extra notch in order to see to the very tops of the peaks, compared to gazing up at the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Today I’m back in Nepal, fortunate that once a year or so I get to fly out of Kathmandu, which almost always means a view of the Himalayan range once the plane climbs above the smog and clouds. It is a magnificent sight, and I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to take to the skies – especially when the other option is the traffic on Nepal’s increasingly crowded, dust-choked roads.
But two decades later even these most majestic mountains are at risk from – you guessed it – global warming. Continue reading
This a follow-up to my last post, where I took issue with an argument in a recent op-ed in the New York Times by Kenan Malik. He contended that the common claim that Indigenous People have a “special attachment to the land and a unique form of ecological wisdom” is the flip side of the historical argument that they are primitives who cannot adapt in the modern world. He calls it a “reworking of the ‘noble savage’ myth.” Continue reading