Tibetan glaciers are being destroyed by global warming
Scientists have issued a grave warning about the future of glaciers in western Tibet after nine yak herders were killed in an avalanche. They say global warming is destabilising the dense ice formations that they once thought were immune from rising temperatures.
Meltwater seeping under glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau triggered a deadly avalanche this year, sweeping the nomadic yak herders to their deaths. Two months later a neighbouring glacier in the same mountain range without warning gave way.
Researchers have now found the meltwater in the first avalanche acted as a lubricant between the ground and the ice allowing it to slide down the mountain at speed with devastating effects.
Half the world’s species failing to cope with global warming
Nearly half the species on the planet are failing to cope with global warming the world has already experienced, according to an alarming new study that suggests the sixth mass extinction of animal life in the Earth’s history could take place in as little as 50 years.
A leading evolutionary biologist, Professor John Wiens, found that 47 per cent of nearly 1,000 species had suffered local extinctions linked to climate change with populations absent from areas where they had been found before.
Professor Wiens, who is editor of the Quarterly Review of Biology and a winner of the American Society of Naturalists’ Presidential Award, said the implications for the future were serious because his review showed plants and animals were struggling to deal with the relatively small amount of global warming experienced to date.
So far the world has warmed by about 1C above pre-industrial levels, but it is expected to hit between 2.6 and 4.8C by 2100 if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gases.
Another problem facing life on Earth is the election of climate science denier Donald Trump as US president.
Professor Wiens, of Arizona University, described this as a “global disaster” and, when asked what he would say to the President-elect if he met him, he joked grimly: “Kill yourself immediately.”
In his study, published in the journal PLOS Biology, the scientist examined academic papers about 976 different species from all over the world that had been studied at least twice, once about 50 years ago and again within the last 10 years.
“In almost half the species looked at, there have been local extinctions already,” he said.
“What it shows is species cannot change fast enough to keep up with a small change in climate. That’s the big implication – even a small change in temperature and they cannot handle it.”
The study looked at 716 different kinds of animals and 260 plants from Asia, Europe, North and South America, and elsewhere.
Local extinctions were found to have occurred among 47.1 per cent of species at the “warm edge” of their traditional range, as it became too hot for them. There were few areas of the planet that were unaffected.