DURBAN, South Africa, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- A U.N.-backed panel of climate scientists says it has confirmed Himalayan glaciers are melting, though more work is needed to ascertain the extent and impact.
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released at the United Nations' annual climate summit this weekend in Durban, South Africa, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The panel had been forced to back off wording in a 2009 document that stated the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 and possibly sooner. Now, panel Chairman Rajendra Pachauri said, the latest scientific data available, while limited, show the glaciers are receding.
One Swedish study found all 10 glaciers studied between 2002 and 2005 had shrunk, and another study found reduced snow cover over the region in the past decade. The region has 54,000 glaciers.
"These reports provide a new baseline and location-specific information for understanding climate change in one of the most vulnerable ecosytems in the world," he said. "They substantially deepen our understanding of this region -- and of all mountain systems -- while also pointing to the knowledge gaps yet to be filled, and actions that must be taken to deal with the challenge of climate change globally and to minimize the risks from impacts locally."
He said the reports show the impact climate change could have on mountainous regions, the Telegraph said.
Many climatologists worry the melting of Himalayan glaciers could have a severe impact on the region's animals and people. About 1.3 billion people rely on water from the mountains and would face shortages if the glaciers were to disappear.
Some 1.3 billion rely on water flowing from the mountains, which could dry up if the glaciers melt.