HALEY BREWER WRITES- Climate change has long endangered coastal cities but thanks to a study released early last month, we now know that climate change affects the farthest terrain above sea level – even Mt. Everest.
The world-famous mountain may be 29,032 feet above sea level, but studies have shown that the glaciers on it are melting. Mt. Everest actually holds the world’s highest glacier, named the South Col glacier. In the study, published by the Nature Portfolio Journal, it is reported that an ice core was taken from it and examined, showing that in just 25 years, 55 meters of ice have melted off the glacier. To put that in perspective: The glacier took over 2,000 years to develop, yet it took only a quarter of a century for it to become depleted by dozens of meters of ice. This melting is of course caused by the rising global temperature and is a cause for grave concern, especially when in the past three decades carbon emissions have increased by 50%.
Commercialization is also endangering Mount Everest. Climbers have polluted it. The mountainside is littered with oxygen tanks, tents, trash, and, sadly, the bodies of those who didn’t make it back down the mountain.
So, how does this affect not just Mt. Everest, but neighboring Nepal? One would think, since the mountain is melting and the air is warmer, little to no snow would be a good thing for the approximately 800 climbers who try to ascend Everest each year. In actuality, when the ice melts, what is left is the bedrock, which is immensely hard to climb, given that it is an uneven and treacherous landscape. Melting glaciers can also lead to more frequent avalanches that could become more dangerous. Consider that the South Col glacier, where a base camp is situated, is commonly used for expeditions. So, if it were to melt and flood, there would be no camp.
What’s more, tourism in Nepal that focuses on Mt. Everest is a million-dollar business which employs almost a million people per year. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Nepal was hit hard economically, due to a lack of tourists. So if Nepal’s economy is hit even harder, to the point where we can no longer climb it, locals would lose jobs.
Obviously, Mt. Everest isn’t going anywhere, but the modern-day dream of reaching its summit may eventually cease to exist given the potentially drastic outcomes of climate change.