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Greenpeace Says Global Warming Melting Himalayan Glaciers, Threatening Millions

The environmental activist organization Greenpeace says rising temperatures are fast melting Himalayan glaciers, potentially endangering water supplies to millions of people in Asia and threatening dangerous floods. Greenpeace is urging China and other countries to take immediate measures to reduce carbon emissions in order to fight global warming. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The Chinese chapter of Greenpeace says its investigation of Himalayan glaciers during three expeditions to the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in the last two years shows they are retreating as temperatures continue to rise.

Greenpeace Wednesday showed reporters in Beijing photographic evidence of shrinking glaciers as well as interviews with Tibetan villagers indicating water supplies and farm production are already being affected.

Li Yan, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace China, says lakes created from melting glaciers may be trapping water that would otherwise flow down to villages, leading to water shortages that become deadly when the lakes become too full and suddenly burst down mountains. Li says that, during a recent expedition to Mount Everest, Greenpeace discovered dramatic melting.

"Mount Everest is heating up at twice the speed of China's average and nearly triple the speed of the world…," Li said.

Greenpeace cited Chinese scientists who say that, at the current rate of global warming, all Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035, maybe even earlier if climate change trends worsen.

The loss of glaciers would mean water shortages for millions in Asia. Glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau are the sources of major rivers, including China's Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, India's Ganges and Indus Rivers, and Southeast Asia's Mekong River.

Greenpeace blames carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases for causing the temperature rise and says the Chinese and other governments need to do more to curb emissions.

China is expected to overtake the United States as the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide as early as this year.

Greenpeace says China can work to slow down climate change and still maintain economic growth by improving energy efficiency and promoting renewable energy.

The European Union has been trying to convince China to take bigger steps to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

But, despite its own growing level of emissions, Beijing says developed nations should be held responsible for most global warming.