A team of expert climbers, just back from the Himalayas, says global warming is becoming one of the biggest threats to mountain areas. The expedition's findings are being released by the United Nations to coincide with World Environment Day. The team hopes to raise public awareness of the growing threats from climate change.
The expedition was backed by the U.N. Environment Program. It went to the Himalayas to observe conditions on the world's most famous mountain range. The seven mountaineers gathered first-hand accounts from Buddhist monks as well as local people and other travelers.
One of the expedition leaders, Roger Payne, says conditions on the mountain are much warmer and wetter than they were 50 years ago when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Nogway became the first people to climb Mt. Everest.
"It is only when you go somewhere like the Everest region, and you look at the 1953 base camp, and you think that back in 1953 when Hillary and Tenzing set off to climb Everest, they stepped out of base camp and straight on to the ice. You would now have to walk more than two hours to get on to the ice. So, you can really get this sense of change, said Mr. Payne, who is sports and development director at the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation and one of the expedition's leaders.
He said climbers are not the only ones who have noticed the change in the Himalayas. He says local people told him floods from melting glaciers are becoming more frequent.
A recent study by the U.N. Environment Program pinpointed 44 glacial lakes in Nepal and Bhutan which, it says, are now so swollen they could burst their banks in as little as five years.