Climate Change on the Third Pole: Causes, Processes and Consequences: A Working Paper by The Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research for the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Tibet

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Abstract

A working/briefing paper by the UoA's Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research, requested by the Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on Tibet. The work reviews the international literature on climate change in the Third Pole Region (TPR, or High Asian Mountain Area), an examines in particular the challenges faced by the international scientific community in understanding the complex combination of climate change effects on the TPR cryosphere (snow, glaciers, permafrost), and thereby the impact that major changes within that wider cryosphere will have on hydrological flows that support the major Asian rivers that flow out of the TPR. The paper examines in particular (i) the weakness of "peak flow" models for glacial dissipation when occurring in concert with persistent permafrost disintegration, particularly on the eastern Tibetan Plateau, and (ii) the historical difficulties faced in particular by Chinese policymakers and scientists when seeking to explain and mitigate widespread desertification around river headwater regions. The impact of such changes on the year-round provision of freshwater - an essential regulating function of the TPR cryosphere's effect on wider Asian water cycles - is examined in depth, along with the impact on infrastructure and communities within the TPR.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherScottish Parliament's Cross Party Group on Tibet
Commissioning bodyScottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on Tibet
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • CLIMATE CHANGE
  • Tibet
  • Himalayas
  • Glaciology
  • Permafrost thaw
  • HYDROLOGY
  • water security

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