China Says Roof of The World is Heating Up, Spelling Misfortune
[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 00/07/06; July 6, 2000.]
BEIJING, July 5 (AFP) - The Qinghai-Tibet plateau, China's roof of the world, is heating up because of the global greenhouse effect, with potentially severe effects on the environment, state media reported Wednesday.
As temperatures rise over the coming decades, sub-surface ice masses will thaw and glaciers recede, making engineering work more difficult and reducing the run-off to rivers further east, the China Daily reported.
"All these factors will significantly transfigure what the plateau looks like today," said Shi Yafeng, a geologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious institution of academic research.
According to Shi, the Qinghai-Tibet plateau has been warming faster than the global average, with temperatures rising an average 0.16 degrees Celsius per decade since the mid-1950s.
That is likely to accelerate in the years ahead, and by the turn of the next century, average temperatures of the plateau could be three degrees higher than now.
"If that happens, and I think it will, it would be the fastest warming process in 1,000 years," Shi said according to the paper.
As temperatures rise, the "tjale," 1.35 million square kilometers of ice lying under the surface of the plateau, will start thawing, and could be reduced by 60 percent by 2100.
That means major construction projects such as roads and dams must be re-evaluated and may be abandoned. It will also impact a planned railway linking the capitals of Qinghai and Tibet, the paper said.
Another result of the warming is that glaciers in the area may start thawing, and could shrink 45 percent over the next century, reducing water in the Yellow and Yangtze rivers.
These are prospects that leave scientists like Shi with a sense of urgency.
"More extensive, continued observations and analysis should be done -- and now," Shi said.
Copyright 1998-2005, Tibet Environmental Watch (TEW)