Because mountain regions are absolutely essential in the regulation and maintenance of global water and climate, they are also fundamental in all long-term Sustainable Development.
At Rio in 1992 and in 2002 the importance of mountains not only for mountain populations but also for those living downstream and those who are dependent on the regions for various reasons was highlighted. This includes most of humanity and other life forms worldwide.
Because of their role in regulating the water cycle and climate, mountain ecosystems have an important part to play in determining our future. It is in all of our interest to preserve and restore them. Mountain snows and glaciers play a critical part in the healthy functioning, of the entire cryosphere. Because all the varied regions of the cryosphere work in an interconnected manner, safeguarding the high regions will help to reduce the fast melting happening in the lower artic and polar regions. This entire issue is a matter of great urgency.
Another issue needing serious consideration in the sustainable development and mountains debate is the way that large-scale hydro- dams have been promoted as a sustainable way forward for energy and for generating green economies in mountain regions.
Yet with melting glaciers and climate change, river flow patterns and precipitation has been significantly and unpredictably changed. Now their continued development for hydropower needs to be seriously reconsidered.
Given the abundant quantity of solar energy in mountain regions, it would be beneficial to replace hydro-dam electrical projects with solar power projects. If we really want to, we have enough intelligence, capacities and finances collectively to face this global situation and work together to remedy it. Interconnected peaceful solutions that care for the wellbeing of all are our way forward.
Climate Change has now become a major issue on the global agenda. Mountain peaks are becoming bare of snow, glaciers are melting, fresh water is decreasing and deserts are on the increase. In short, natural disasters caused by human activities, which have induced climate changes, are severely effecting the lives of millions of people around the world and threaten billions. These are predicted to greatly increase with the present rate of environmental degradation. However this is not a time to be daunted by the scale of the situation. There are still important changes that can be made and which could prevent even worse disasters from occurring in the future. Yet this cannot happen if we ignore the situation, underestimate it, deny the causes or fail to prioritise it for action.
Healthy mountain ecosystems are actually key elements within global climate regulation. Disturbingly since so much of the biodiversity within these regions has been removed worldwide and with mountain glaciers rapidly dissapearing, they are no longer able to effectively perform the important climate stabilizing and regulating functions that they once did.
The extreme loss of mountain glaciers, snow and ice is already having profound and seriously negative affects upon the global climate, water supply and energy. Now that adequate water supplies are unreliable, the unnecessary stress that large hydro dams put upon ecosystems makes them no longer a viable option. When considering the immense importance of water related ecosystems for global fresh water, they may even be immensely detrimental to life far beyond their immediate vicinity. An example of this can be seen in the Andes.A recent study which, analyses 150 planned dams across six major river basins, which connect the Andes to the Amazon (a geographic scope spanning Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) warns that they would threaten many Andean-Amazon rivers.
We need to start seeing life in a far more interconnected manner and realize that damage to ecosystems on the other side of the world affect our weather and water and the future lives of our families. All fresh water related ecosystems need to be preserved and we need to avoid adding further stress to them. It has been predicted by scientist that there could be a total loss of mountain glaciers, snow and ice within 50 years. This is virtually unthinkable. Maybe Earth could resemble Mars very shortly if appropriate, effective, concerted global action is not taken promptly. The World Glaciers Monitoring Service (WGMS) measures the thinning of glaciers in terms of water equivalent, estimating that in 2006 shrinking was equivalent to the loss of 1.4 metres of water, compared with half a metre in 2005. This speed of loss is enormous and it is still accelerating.
It has to be remembered that this is the Earth’s stored fresh water supply and an essential part of the regenerative function of the global water cycle. This situation needs to be remedied. Yet this cannot be done, by using purely man-made technology. The solutions are however within nature. We just need to apply them swiftly.
Around the world mountain communities have become more and more marginalized and impoverished as mountain biodiversity and ecosystems have been depleted. This is a great loss for the world.
Mountain regions are absolutely essential in the maintenance of the global water cycle. Therefore it is in the interest of the whole global community to preserve mountain ecosystems and to support and collaborate with mountain communities. Good environmental restoration and management initiatives that strongly involve mountain communities and their traditions are key factors in realizing long-term environmental sustainable development worldwide.
It is important to note that generally it has not been the grass-root mountain communities that have caused the majority of the environmental degradation that has taken place throughout mountain regions worldwide. It has always been in the interest of these communities to protect the natural resources, which supported their livelihoods. However now that the natural resources within these regions have been so desperately depleted, these communities need to be supported to conserve and restore the crucial mountain biodiversity.
Mountain people are among the few groups of people capable of living and working in mountain regions with their extreme climates and environmental conditions. Their success with achieving this will be pivotal to global success regarding freshwater security and changing climates. From this it becomes clear that supporting mountain communities is not simply an act of charity, it is a means by which the whole global community can safeguard their own long-term interests.
The health of the global water cycle affects everyone and all ecosystems. If it is to be secured and humanity along with mass biodiversity is going to continue and evolve on Earth, we need to work together in a truly supportive and respectful manner.
It is also widely acknowledged that they are essential in global climate regulation. However, these prominent features, which source most of the worlds’ major rivers, should not be looked at as independent from the other important features of mountain ecosystems.
Thus greater awareness is needed, so that the global community as a whole, comes to understand and appreciate the irreplaceable importance of mixed biodiversity, for mountain ecosystems with their snows and glaciers, as well as for their own long term wellbeing.
snowmelt, which can offset the interception losses.” Download: FAO, Mountain Forests in a Changing World, 2011.pdf [mk_font_icons icon=”moon-file-pdf” size=”small” padding_horizental=”4″ padding_vertical=”4″ circle=”false” align=”none” link=”http://www.activeremedy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/fao_2011_mountain_forests_in_a_changing_world.pdf”][/mk_blockquote]
Most people have a general awareness of the importance of the North and South Poles. However far less people are aware that there is also a region that is referred to by many scientists as the ‘Third Pole’.
Because this is a time when humanity needs to unite to safeguard the global water cycle and stabilise the climate worldwide, far greater attention needs to be given to restoring and preserving the mixed biodiversity and natural ecosystems within the third pole and adjacent mountain regions. This is important because this biodiversity plays a vital role in the formation and maintenance of ice and snow.
After the Arctic and the Antarctic, the Third Pole is Earths’ largest store of glaciers, ice and permafrost and it plays a major role in the reflection of solar radiation globally.
It is of global concern that mountain glaciers and snows are now melting at an alarming rate worldwide and negatively affecting present and future fresh water supplies and climate.
Rather than considering these changes to be purely the impact of climate change and thus impossible to remedy, it would be advantageous to look at the connection between them and the massive deforestation of the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan regions that has occurred within the last 60 years.
Tibet is the topmost part of the roof of the world and it affects the entire roof and hence the whole world positively or negatively in regards to water supplies and climate.
This worldwide scenario is becoming highly disturbing when we consider the implications for the global fresh water supply. All countries, rich and poor alike are threatened by this same looming water related crisis and all the consequences of it.
In addition, the environmental damage that hydro dams cause, puts even more pressure onto valuable water resources and crucial mountain ecosystems. These ecosystems are too important to lose. The massive depletion and potential disappearance of mountain snows and glaciers worldwide is a threat that humanity should do everything possible to prevent from becoming a reality. The extreme melting of these glaciers not only indicates climate change, they exacerbate and accelerate climate change. The Earth’s mountain glaciers, permafrost, ice and snow acts as a protective mirror, reflecting a large percentage of the sun’s heat back into space and keeping the planet cool.
Yet this massive loss is not something that can be adapted to. Rises in temperature above 1o C (J Hansen) could lead to a global climate catastrophe. Therefore the accelerating retreat of mountain glaciers must be slowed down.
A global initiative to conserve freshwater and the ecosystems, which maintain the global water cycle, is desperately needed at this time. Humanity is standing at a crossroads; freshwater related problems and disasters are increasing. The present trend of unsustainable resource use and environmental degradation means that these disasters will become more and more devastating.
Freshwater is an absolute necessity for everybody; we cannot allow the cycle that carries it around the Earth to be broken. The global community needs to prioritise stabilising and maintaining the global water cycle.
The more of us who work together collectively with a common purpose focused on the restoration of mountain ecosystems and the eradication of poverty for mountain communities, the more chance there is of success. This is in the interest of all peoples as it concerns the security of the global hydrological cycle and fresh water security worldwide.
The combination of high mountain snow peaks and glaciers along with the natural biodiversity of these regions makes them an irreplaceable part of the global water cycle. Resolution 62/196, which was adopted by the UNGA in 2007, referred to mountains as the source of most of the Earth’s freshwater.
However nowadays much of the crucial biodiversity of these regions has been removed, many glaciers and snow peaks are suffering from extensive loss of snow and ice and these changes are having devastating global repercussions.
Likewise the entire roof needs to be considered and the highest parts need to be prioritised and repaired first. The top regions such as the Himalayas and the Andes need to be given immediate attention to conserve lower regions such as the Alps and Rockies.
However this view overlooks the fact that mountains are vital in regulating and maintaining the global water cycle, without which, we could not survive.
Mountain regions and the biodiversity within these regions, perform crucial functions in regulating global water and climate. They store fresh water in the form of ice and snow and in lakes, wetlands and reservoirs.
It is the rich variety of mixed biodiversity that once abundantly covered these regions, which performs so many functions enabling freshwater to be both conserved and carried around the Earth.
The climate of Earth and the global water cycle are so closely interrelated that anything that impacts upon either one, naturally impacts upon the other.
The Mountain regions of the world form an interdependent, integrated global system. They need to be regarded, as ‘Global Commons’ and their ecosystems need to be conserved and restored in an interrelated manner, on a global scale. Repairing or conserving one mountain range such as the Alps and ignoring the others will not prove to be an adequate solution.
This is an example of what is presently happening and is a global situation, happening throughout the Himalayas, Andes, the Alps and mountain regions throughout the whole world. This glacial recession is bringing about climate changes and water shortages globally. All of our families and both present and future generations are threatened. Hence we should do what we can to fix the problems as adaptation to a world without glaciers or freshwater is impossible.