The Third Pole encompasses the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding Hindu Kush Himalayas Mountain range with the world’s eight highest peaks. Its ice fields and over 46,000 glaciers contain the world’s third largest reserve of freshwater after the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions. This crucial geopolitical zone is the source of ten major river systems that provide water, irrigation, and hydropower to 250 million within the region and over 1.9 billion people in Asia – over 24% of the world’s population.
Changes in climate are increasing glacier and snow melt and threatening the region’s food and water security particularly in China and India, the fastest growing economies of the 21st century. A 2019 ICIMOD Report warned that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current levels, the region could lose two-thirds of its glaciers and ice by the end of this century.