Pole-Land: The Climate of Tibet

The Economist examines conflicting research into the effects of climate change on the Tibetan plateau and surrounding mountains, known collectively as Earth’s “Third Pole”:

Until recently studies of the Third Pole were piecemeal—not surprising, given its remoteness, the altitude, the harsh weather and the fact that little love is lost between the countries among which it is divided. In 2009, however, Yao Tandong of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, in Beijing, Lonnie Thompson of the Ohio State University and Volker Mosbrugger of the Senckenberg World of Biodiversity, in Frankfurt, started an international programme involving these countries, called the Third Pole Environment (TPE). Last month, its fourth workshop met in Dehradun, India.

[…] One outcome of the workshop […] has been to establish that the overall ice cover of the Third Pole, like that of the two real poles, is shrinking. Another is to show how precarious and piecemeal data about the area are. Its role as the source of so many rivers means that absence of data matters. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, of which both Dr Yao’s and Dr Wu’s institutes are part, has therefore set up a fund of 400m yuan ($65m) for research on the Third Pole and, crucially, a quarter of this is earmarked for work outside China. [Source]

At Tea Leaf Nation (via CDT), Hongxiang Huang reported this week that scrutiny of environmental issues in Tibet is often affected by the region’s political sensitivity. For more information on the Third Pole, see thethirdpole.net, an offshoot of chinadialogue.