COMMENTARY | Today has been declared Mountain Day at the Durban Climate Change conference in South Africa. The United Nations Conference of the Parties will allow researchers from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development to present their findings about the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. Although the media is portraying the publication of its results as a monumental event, ICIMOD has previously noted that a full report may only be seen in 2013.
The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development has found disturbing data on the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. Despite gaps in information and the need for more extensive studies, ICIMOD has already found that there is an ongoing reduction in mass in the glaciers. The loss of glaciers can lead to flooding in some areas and a reduction of a water supply in others. The focus on climate change is at the heart of the ICIMOD research.
Unfortunately, the reports from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development also illustrate an ongoing problem in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region that needs to be addressed immediately. The enormous gaps in data are disturbing, and I am shocked to see the minimal amount of research that has been devoted to this area. Although ICIMOD has highlighted the organization’s hopes of ongoing studies and more data, funding is limited, and it is not certain how this will be accomplished.
It is difficult to assess the full impact of the ICIMOD research on the United Nations climate talks. The findings from the organization are being presented today and have essentially been relegated to the outskirts of the United Nations Conference of the Parties. I do not think the reports will have a strong influence on the climate talks because they have not been given an adequate audience.
The Kyoto Protocol is still at the center of the COP17, and the glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region are not going to remove the focus from the debate. Although this region may hold the answers to understanding global climate change, the Conference of the Parties will probably overlook most of its limited data while politics continue to reign.