At the place where 金沙江 Jinsha Jiang bashes headlong into a mountain and does an abrupt 90 degree change of direction, squeezed to no more than 60 meters wide is 虎跳峡 Hutiao Xia, Tiger Leaping Gorge. The precipices on one side rise to 玉龙雪山 YuLong Xueshan Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, it’s glaciers crowned with the sharp ridgeline that gives its name. When you go to 丽江 Lijiang in 云南 Yunnan Province, thins is what you will see. For the next couple of years anyway.
Like the ice-shelfs in Antarctica, Patagonia, and on every mountain in the world, Yulong Xueshan is in trouble. The glaciers have been shrinking since the early-80s, and Wu Guangjian of the Beijing-based Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is certain its rapid demise is due to global warming.
He said the temperature change in the Lijiang area in the past 20 years is roughly the same as that in the northern hemisphere on average, which has been 0.4 C and 1 C higher than that of 1960s, respectively.
There are 8,600-odd glaciers of various scales in the country’s temperate zones, of which the one on the Yulong Snow Mountain is of the smallest scale and the lowest latitude, and therefore, should be the most sensitive to temperature changes.
The continent-wide collapse is expected to result in two-thirds of glaciers vanishing in the next 50 years, having an incalculable impact on the environment, and causing havok for 300 million people, particularly oasis communities in western China whose population amounts to 23% of the country.
In a idiotically brainless move, the director of CAS is promoting the building of dams as the perfect solution. His contention is that dams create more moisture in the air, which in turn promotes snowfall. Another solution involving honoring the Kyoto accord and dealing with a nation getting high on coal is like democracy, something they are not ready for.
In the meantime, grab your crampons and iceaxe and get climbing while there’s still something left.