In the film, Waterworld, the earth has become one vast ocean as all the snows and glaciers have melted because of global warming. Only one spot of dry land is still left — it is Mount Everest and a bit of the surrounding area. Even if mankind is able to avoid such a fate, the present signs are not propitious. The shrinking polar ice caps are a warning signal of the baneful effects of rising temperatures as greenhouse gases and industrial pollution trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere. The melting glaciers and receding snowline of the Himalayas have brought the threat of dire predictions bearing out much nearer.
At the Meeting of the Americas in Cancun, Mexico, researchers have said that glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 per cent in the last 50 years and the snowline has shifted upwards by 180 metres. The researchers, who have been tracking changes of glaciers, temperatures and precipitation in Everest and the Sagarmatha national park, have desisted from establishing a direct link between the changes and global warming, but climate change appears to be the prime suspect.
Apart from Mount Everest, effects of the changing climate have also been felt in the rest of the Himalayas. If these go on unchecked, it will be a matter of deep concern since it will mean the drying up of the mighty rivers of the region — Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra — and their tributaries which provide life-giving water to the 1.5 billion people of South Asia. Their disappearance will mean that the fertile land in their lower reaches will be destroyed by the inflow of sea water. The only way to stave off such a fate is by preventing the emission of greenhouse gases and cleansing the atmosphere by creating forest lands which will act as carbon “sinks” where plants will draw carbon from the air.