August 18, 2009

Officials: Tibet Benefits From Global Warming

A leading expert told Chinese state media on Tuesday that global warming could prove devastating for the Tibetan plateau, the world's third-largest store of ice, but it helps farming and tourism, AFP reported.

The comment, from Qin Dahe, the former head of the China Meteorological Administration, was the only positive in an otherwise gloomy assessment of the impact that rising temperatures will have on Tibet, The China Daily newspaper reported.

Qin, now a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said warming was good for agriculture and tourism in China and has increased the growing season of crops.

China is hoping tourism to the Tibetan capital Lhasa will boost visitor numbers, which will help fund development in Tibet, one of its poorest regions.

The Tibet Daily recently reported that over 2.7 million tourists visited Tibet from January to July this year, nearly triple the number in the same period of 2008.

However, Qin did underline a series of negative consequences that global warming will have on Tibet and the areas surrounding it.

He told the paper that temperatures in Tibet are rising four times faster than elsewhere in China, while the Tibetan glaciers are retreating at a higher speed than in any other part of the world.

"In the short term, this will cause lakes to expand and bring floods and mudflows," Qin said.

He called glaciers "vital lifelines" for Asian rivers, including the Indus and the Ganges.

Qin said once those glaciers vanish, water supplies in those regions would be in peril.