A 31-year-old Tibetan woman at her home in Yellow River township. Once she lived well from the profits off her animals. Now, due to climate change, she is reduced to a life of poverty.
The Tibetan Plateau is often referred to as the roof of the
world, landof high peaks, glaciers and nomadic tribal peoples. The
snowy peaks andglaciers are the source of many of Asia's mightiest
rivers - theGanges, Mekong and China's Yellow River. This area is
predicted to warmconsiderably before 2100 due to global warming.
The roof of the worldis melting, and melting fast.
A little less ice
So what's the big deal about a little less ice in a place full
of thestuff anyway? Actually it's a disaster for the region now,
and theramifications may yet be felt across the globe. We visited
the region tohighlight the impacts of the changing climate of the
As the area warms less rain is falling and glaciers in the
region aremelting. Local communities used to make a living of their
herds ofanimals grazing on lush mountain pastures. Now those
pastures are fastturning to desert due to lack of water,
overgrazing and erosion causedby new animals that are thriving in
the warmer conditions. Many localpeople now survive solely on
Onour expedition to the region we travelled on "dancing roads"
distortedby melting permafrost to meet the governor of Madoi
County. In 1980, Madoi wasChina's richest province due to its
agricultural wealth. It is now China'spoorest. We interviewed
once-prosperous, but now destitute,farmers and saw first hand the
desert gobbling up pasture land.
Climate change is causing a cocktail of environmental effects at
theYellow River source that threaten an ecological breakdown. When
you seethe empty wells, bridges over nothing but dry dirt, cracked
groundwhere there should be lakes, bare rock and sand where it was
oncehealthy grassland you know something is seriously wrong.
See more impacts in the region at our Yellow River site in English
While the immediate impacts on the area are bad enough they
palecompared to the possible future impacts in the rest of China.
TheYellow River has fed China's people since time immemorial.
Today, 120million Chinese people, a tenth of China's population,
rely on theriver, especially for irrigating crops. As well as being
known asChina's 'mother river', is also dubbed the 'cradle of the
Nowthe mother river is drying up at its source. In many places
onthe upper stretches the flow is much reduced. If the flow of the
rivercontinues to decline it threatens the food supplies for a
large part ofChina's population.
Alarm bell for the world
Butthis isn't just a problem for China. Many of Asia's rivers
begin on theTibetan Plateau. If it continues to dry this could
affect many ofthese rivers and the millions of people who rely on
them. As well as water shortages, scientistspredict that rising
temperatures will reduce the rice crops that arethe staple food for
more than half of the world's population.
How would the world feed millions of people who cannot rely on locally produced rice?
The Yellow River source region is an urgent warning that climate
changeis harming people now and is going to get worse. The Yellow
River storyis not just about China, it's a warning signal that we
need worldwideaction on global warming.
Take action on global warming
Even if you never see the Yellow River you can do something about global warming with these steps for individual action.
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