December 24, 2009

High school students rally against climate change impacts in town of Booni, northern Pakistan Himalaya.

Students from Booni High School in Chitral, northern Pakistan held a Climate Change Vigil rally a few days ago. The young people are concerned about massive degradation to the natural environment linked to global warming. For example the destruction of the village Sonoghor in June 2007 when a glacier overlooking the village burst and in the avalanche of flood water that followed, houses, orchards, crops and other property was swept away. As a result over 100 families were displaced and 38 houses completely buried under the flood.

It’s believed that global climate change during the first half of the twentieth century has impacted on the high mountainous glacial environment. Many of the big glaciers melted (and are continuing to melt) rapidly, creating a large number of glacier lakes. The burst of a glacier results in glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) when the water dammed by a glacier is released over time, anything from minutes to a few days. Glacial lake outburst floods can cause disasters to life and property downstream, resulting in death toll and destruction of valuable forests, farms and costly mountain infrastructure.

Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP says. “The findings from our joint studies in the Himalayas, the roof of the world, reveals the extent of a new and alarming threat. It is not just the risk to human lives, agriculture and property that should worry us. Mountains are the world’s water towers feeding the rivers and lakes upon which all life depends. If the glaciers continue to retreat at the rates being seen in places like the Himalayas, then many rivers and freshwater systems could run dry, threatening drinking water supplies, as well as fisheries and wildlife. We now have another compelling reason to act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

The students of Chitral are among many people in the Himalaya who fear for their lives, livelihoods, their environment and their wildlife as a result of the impact of climate change. At the end of the rally they passed several resolutions seeking action from their government, the world community and requesting education about climate change be included in their school curriculum. See more here.

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Himalayan villagers and snow leopards won’t find too much to like from Copenhagen

December 19, 2009

Failure or the beginning of something better? Only time will tell. But the deal struck by world leaders at the end of the talks will not halt global warming and President Obama admits it just doesn’t go far enough. Not enough money committed to it  and the decision on targets for reducing carbon emissions by 2020 was put off.

I have to say I’m dissapointed after all the time, effort, energy, money and hype for this conference. I wonder how long before the Himalayas and the rest of the planet gets some real action? Read full story here.


Everest Declaration to protect home of snow leopard from more climate change impacts

December 17, 2009

Members of Nepal's cabinet wearing oxygen masks at their Everest Declaration Climate Change meeting over 5000m on Kala Pathar. Photo CNN.

Early in December in the lead up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference Nepal came up with a 10-point declaration for dealing with the environmental impact on Everest and the Himalayan region caused by global warming.

A few years ago Peter Hillary warned that some areas around Everest are sinking, with Base camp, (used by his father Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay) having shed about 40 meters of ice.

The Everest Declaration was issued following the Nepalese cabinet ministers’ historic session held at the Kala Patthar base camp at over 5000m high. Full points to the ministers for going there and coming up with the Declaration. I was at Kala Patthar myself some years ago and found it hard to breathe let alone think 😉 I guess it helped that they had oxygen masks.

The Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumal Nepal said “Mt. Everest is an icon of world environment. The 2,700 kilometer east-west range of the Himalayas is witness to the culture, tradition and natural heritage of 1.3 billion people.”

Effects of global warming are causing increasing natural calamities, impacting wildlife as well as putting pressure on the nation’s socio-economic development.

The 10-point declaration includes strategies to raise national awareness on global warming and a government commitment to increase conservation areas in Nepal from 20 percent to 25 percent and consolidating 40 percent of forest area. We’ll watch and see how this progresses over the next year few years.


A journey exploring climate change in Himalayas

December 17, 2009

John Vidal, UK Guardian's Environment Editor

The UK Guardian newspaper’s John Vidal recently did a 1,000-mile journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The environment editor writes that he found “clear evidence of the terrible threat that global warming now poses to the millions who rely on water from the roof of the world.”

“Average temperatures across Nepal have risen 1.6C in 50 years – twice the global average. But here on the roof of the world, in what is called the “third pole”, they are already nearly 4C above normal and on track to rise by as much as 8C by 2050.” As Vidal points out this could mean collapse of glacial dams resulting in massive destruction of villages below. Read this excellent article on the challenges for people and the environment in the home of the snow leopards here.


Climate change in the home of snow leopards

December 7, 2009

With the UN Summit at Copenhagen starting now, there’s been some focus in recent weeks on the impact of climate change on the worlds highest mountain system, the Himalayas. A recent press conference called “Stop Melting Life, Save The Himalayas”in Kathmandu highlighted the threat of climate change on the lives and livelihoods of many people in Nepal. Local researchers have found that rainfall patterns are changing rapidly and that temperatures are on the increase leading to the dramatic retreat of Himalayan glaciers. There are grave concerns for what this will mean for the billions of people living in the basin of the rivers fed by Himalayas glaciers.

Opening of the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit with 192 nations attending. Photo official Summit website.

A few days ago there was a historic Nepal Cabinet meeting high on the Kala Patthar Plateau (near Mount Everest) also focusing on this issue. Today many government ministers along with a group of famous Everest summiteers are organising a march in the streets of Copenhagen for next week. The march will carry the message of  “Save the Himalayas” and coincides with International Mountain Day. It is to be hoped that all this will help focus much needed attention on this fragile part of the world where the potential impact of climate change could affect not only keystone species like  endangered snow leopards but also the lives of billions of people.

Follow all the discussions and decisions of this momentous conference at the official website.


1st birthday for Melbourne Zoo snow leopard cubs

December 7, 2009
Tashi and Gobi 1st birthday

Happy birthday Tashi and Gobi, snow leopard cubs at Melbourne Zoo.

Hard to believe but today its a year since the birth of Tashi and Gobi at Melbourne Zoo. Happy birthday cubs! The keepers have been so happy with their development and growth, the first snow leopard cubs for the Zoo in 20 years.

There have been many successful zoo births around the world this year but also sadly one occasion where cubs have not survived so we know this sort of breeding requires skill, knowledge and dedication.

This is a pic of the cubs with mum Meo when they were about 3 months old. Now they are as big as she is, but will remain in the same exhibit area still for some time. Photo by Adrian Howard, Melb Zoo.

Congratulations to all staff at the Melbourne Zoo for this successful outcome. Now that the summer holiday season has almost started I’m sure Tashi and Gobi will get lots of visitors over the next few months.


what to do if you see illegal snow leopard fur etc for sale

December 4, 2009

The Snow Leopard Trust blog has just posted some really good information on what people can do if they see anyone trying to sell snow leopard furs etc. It may happen that you see this in your travels or even in your travels around the internet. It can be confusing but check these really useful guidelines from the SLT here.