The precise impact of rising temperatures in the Himalayas hasn’t been clear to scientists. But it is now, a report issued Monday says, per the Guardian: At least one-third of the huge ice fields in the mountain chain will melt by 2100. That’s even if the loftiest goals to counter the effects of climate change are met (if they aren't, two-thirds could melt). The consequences will be serious for nearly 2 billion people in Asia, the report says: Those glaciers are an important source of water for 250 million people in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region, AFP reports—plus 1.65 billion more if you consider those who rely on the rivers that flow from the mountains into India, Pakistan, China, and other nations. The report was requested by the eight nations that share the region. More than 200 scientists worked over five years on the study, which was peer-reviewed by another 125 experts.
"This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of," says Philippus Wester of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, who led the report. The fact that even aggressive action won’t prevent such major loss was unexpected, he says: "That for us was the shocking finding." As temperatures rise, some in Nepal have already been uprooted, the New York Times reports. Land has become barren that had been used to grow vegetables, and "water sources have dried up," says one farmer from a village about 13,000 feet above sea level—who, along with all 18 families that lived there, had to move to lower ground a few years back due to crop failures. Should climate disaster strike, the mountain people—one-third of whom survive on less than $1.90 a day—live far from help. "Mountain people are really getting hit hard," says David Molden, the director general of a research center near Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. "We have to do something now." (Read more climate change stories.)