The Himalayan region which is home to the world's tallest peaks, including Mount Everest, is particularly vulnerable as rising temperatures disturb the balance of snow, ice and water, threatening 1.3 billion people living downstream along Asia's major river basins, the head of a research body says.
"The Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region is like a gentle giant. While physically imposing, it is one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world," said David Molden, director general of Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
"We must meet the intensity of climate change in these mountains with an equal intensity of will to mitigate and to adapt to the impacts," he added, according to an ICIMOD statement.
The three reports, published by Sweden-funded ICIMOD project on the occasion of the Mountain Day, are the most comprehensive assessment to date on climate change, snow and glacier melt in Asia's Himalayan region.
They also represent the first authoritative data on the number and extent of glaciers and the patterns of snowfall in the world's most mountainous region.
The region offers livelihoods to 210 million people and indirectly provides goods and services to the 1.3 billion people living in river basins downstream who benefit from food and energy.
Rich in biodiversity, the region is home to some 25,000 plant and animal species, and contains a larger diversity of forest types than the Amazon.
The HKH region home to 30% of the world's glaciers, has been called the Third Pole, but there are scant data on these glaciers.