UN chief urges world to ‘stop the madness’ of climate change

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world Monday to “stop the madness” of climate change as he visited Himalayan regions struggling from rapidly melting glaciers to witness the devastating impact of the phenomenon.

“The rooftops of the world are caving in,” Guterres said on a visit to the Everest region in mountainous Nepal, adding that the country had lost nearly a third of its ice in just over three decades.

“Glaciers are icy reservoirs—the ones here in the Himalayas supply fresh water to well over a billion people,” he said. “When they shrink, so do river flows.”

Nepal’s glaciers melted 65 percent faster in the last decade than in the previous one, said Guterres, who is on a four-day visit to Nepal.

Glaciers in the wider Himalayan and Hindu Kush ranges are a crucial water source for around 240 million people in the mountainous regions, as well as for another 1.65 billion people in the South Asian and Southeast Asian river valleys below.

The glaciers feed 10 of the world’s most important river systems, including the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Mekong and Irrawaddy, and directly or indirectly supply billions of people with food, energy, clean air and income.

In the first phase of climate change’s effects, melting glaciers can trigger destructive floods.

“Melting glaciers mean swollen lakes and rivers flooding, sweeping away entire communities”, he added.

But all too soon, glaciers will dry up if change is not made, he warned.

“In the future, major Himalayan rivers like the Indus, the Ganges and Brahmaputra could have massively reduced flows, he said.

“That spells catastrophe”.