Geographic Importance to the Global Environment (Posted July 2007)
Quinghai-Tibet Plateau covers an area of 2.9 million sq kilometers
(1.1million sq miles), covering an area about three times the combined
size of the UK France and Germany. This plateau of an average altitude
of 14,754 feet (4,500 metres) is bordered by the Kunlun and Qilian
mountains in the north, the Tanglha mountains in the east and the
Himalayas in the south and west . Only one percent of the land is
arable with limited yields due to the dry cold climate.
Tibetan plateau is known as the third pole for having the largest
concentration of glaciers outside the polar caps. These glaciers
are the water source for one sixth of humanity. Scientists predict
80% of these glaciers will disappear within 30 years if current
warming continues. The Himalayan glaciers on the Tibetan plateau
have been among the most effected by global warming. The Himalayas
contain a hundred times as much ice as the Alps. Seven Asian River
systems originate on the Tibetan plateau and much of Asia depends
on these and the monsoon rains that cross the Himalaya for irrigating
agricultural land and drinking water.
Tibetans revere and celebrate their land and have for thousands
of years maintained a way of life and a religion based on living
in harmony, cherishing and revering nature. Through their spiritual
traditions Tibetans express their love for their land and of every
living creature. Animals, mountains, rivers and the earth itself,
a living body with its store of precious minerals, are all seen
as expressions of Buddha Nature, the innate, undying and sacred
universal essence of which mankind is also a manifestation.
villagers, farmers and Lamas see catastrophic changes unfolding
before them every day. According to a report made by a Greenpeace
Expedition to Everest region this year (2007) the Abbot of Rongbuk
monastery told them "I have noticed a reduction in the flow
of the Rongbuk River every year and each year is hotter than the
last. I am worried about the harsh future our children will suffer"
Rongbuk monastery has also witnessed the decrease in winter snow
which used to be chest high and now only reaches the monks' shins.
17,060 feet, a tiny village at the entrance of the Mount Everest
Nature reserve which relied on the Rongbuk River for generations
to irrigate crops has found that their annual highland barley crop
is less than half what it used to be due to lack of irrigation.
than a thousand square miles of glacier have disappeared during
the last 30 years according to a recent survey and the retreat is
accelerating due to global warming. It is estimated that Himalayan
glaciers could shrink from 500,000 sq kilometers to 100,000 sq kilometres
by 2030. In February 2007 the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change) reported that with 90% certainty global warming is caused
by human behaviour. This report galvanized the EU to set targets
for reduction of carbon emissions by 20% from 1990 - 2020. If the
larger industrialized countries such as US, India and China set
similar targets the target could be raised to 30%.
Tibetan plateau and all high Asian terrain sets up large standing
waves in the jet stream and in storm tracks and the deflected storm
tracks draw more heat from the oceans than if flow were zonal. To
an important degree the northern hemisphere climate patterns result
from Tibet's effect on atmospheric flow.
now the 60,000 sq miles of glacier in Tibet, which are shrinking
fast at a rate of 7% a year, have acted as a giant mirror reflecting
the sun's rays back into space and this keeps a lid on global warming.
In a warmer world the Tibetan plateau will turn from white to brown
and grey and the whole of Tibet will become a much warmer place.
This will affect the regularity and intensity of monsoons in India
as well as the availability of fresh river water.
year the UN has designated World Environment day's theme as "Melting
Ice" - PLEASE HELP US TO SUPPORT AND HEAL THE TIBETAN ENVIRONMENT
IN A WAY THAT TIBETANS THEMSELVES TRULY APPRECIATE AND UNDERSTAND.