As a result of rising temperatures, some of the world's glaciers are retreating. That has brought about ice loss and meltwater runoff. A Chinese adventurer, known as Glacier Chaser, is remembered for his passionate pursuit to document melting glaciers. Meng Qingsheng reports.
The Tibetan Plateau contains the largest volumes of ice outside of the polar regions. It's home to headwaters of six prominent Asian rivers. The World Meteorological Organization says, glaciers in the region went through mass loss over the past forty years, with an accelerating trend in the new century.
Wang Xiangjun was a popular social media influencer, with the handle Tibetan Adventurer. He started adventures to explore glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau in 2012. The clips he shared on social media platforms won him millions of followers. In 2019, he shared his experiences at the UN Climate Change Conference held in Madrid, Spain.
WANG XIANGJUN Chinese adventurer "I've seen a lot of melting glaciers in Tibet. I was shocked each time when I saw it. It's very painful to see in person that a very beautiful glacier rapidly disappearing before my eyes."
Then Wang became more passionate about raising awareness of the impact of climate change. He called for the public to help reduce carbon emissions, by turning to public transport and using less plastic.
WANG XIANGJUN Chinese adventurer "Why should we care about the disappearance of glaciers? Because glaciers are a very important part of the ecosystem. Because glaciers are the source of great rivers. If we really have to wait until the year 2100, when up to 80 percent of the ice mass disappear in areas with 'small glaciers', it will be too late."
In December, 2020, the 30-year old adventurer slipped into fast-flowing icy waters in northern Tibet. He remained missing until three months later, when locals found his body in the lower reaches.
We met his companion Zuo Duming, in Lhasa, capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region. They met online, and as a result of a common interest, they decided to explore glaciers together.
ZUO DUMING Chinese adventurer "We had made it clear on our way to the glacier that we would open a homestay hotel in Lhasa. And right there, we would exhibit all his photographs, especially the ones with glaciers. By doing so, we hope that people get to know more about the focus of our work, and join us in protecting glaciers."
Scientists predict that by 2050, the glacier mass in the Himalayan region will decrease by 20 to 40 percent. That would affect the lives and livelihoods of about 750 million people in the region. Then, what can we do to reduce its impacts? We turned to Professor Zhang Wenjing, who started his research on glaciers since the 1970s.
PROF. ZHANG WENJING Institute of Mountain Hazards & Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences "Glacier loss, whether you have a warmer climate or a colder climate, is going to happen. You don't have to do something to maintain the loss or try to stop the process. I suggest that the country, or international organizations increase their input, and carry out detailed and continuous observation over mountain glaciers in China. It will play a significant role in monitoring the climate change of the earth."
Wang Xiangjun wrote on his social media platform that he loves the nature, and by immersing into it, he just wants to feel its beauty and energy. And when he leaves there, nothing will be left behind. Meng Qingsheng, CGTN, Chengdu, Sichuan Province.