File Photo: Carina Ahlqvist

KATHMANDU:  The European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative has announced that Swedish mountaineer Carina Ahlqvist would attempt to climb Mt Makalu, the world’s fifth highest peak, in the next spring season to raise awareness of climate change from the high Himalayas.

Announcing their collaboration today, the ESA CCI and Climate Change Explorer as well as Expedition Project Manager, Carina, said in a joint statement that Carina was partnering with ESA to highlight how measurements of Essential Climate Variables, such as those tackled in the Climate Change Initiative programme, are vital for measuring climate change.

“Carina, one of the most experienced 8,000 meters mountain climbers in Sweden, will be the first Swedish woman to attempt to summit the 8481 metre-peak,” it said, adding that she would take part in a number of experiments, including taking ground truth measurements that will complement data from satellites. Whilst Carina is not a scientist, she has collaborated with NASA, as well as leading universities in the US and in Europe, collecting snow samples to contribute to research in climate change, the statement added.

“For me, the purpose is higher than the summit. I appreciate the collaboration with ESA CCI that enables me to climb Mt Makalu to inspire individuals to greater respect our planet”, Carina, who has experience from four 8,000-meter expeditions; twice to Mt Manaslu (8,167 meters) in Nepal, Mt Cho Oyu (8,201 meters) and Mount Shishapangma (8,027 meters) in Tibet, said.

As one of only a few Swedes to be approved as a formal collaborator on a NASA project, Carina will also collect rock samples from landslides on the trek. “The samples will provide valuable physical research material to the NASA-funded project,” the mountaineer said.

With the US NGO Himalayan Stove Project, the journey will also visit villages to monitor how climate-friendly stoves are installed in practice, according to her. “The design of the stove reduces the need for fuel by up to 80%, resulting in less deforestation and carbon dioxide release.” The Himalayan Stove Project is a non-profit driving initiative that since 2009 has installed over 4000 climate-friendly stoves in Nepal.

High-altitude areas are seeing some of the biggest effects of climate change. Ang Tshering Sherpa, Chairperson of the Climate Alliance of Himalayan Communities, shared that there were about 3,000 glaciers in the high Himalayas and in the last 50 years, almost as many glacial lakes have been formed.

According to him, less immediately noticeable at lower altitudes, the urgency is in the high Himalayas, now emerging as one of the worlds most vulnerable and quickly disintegrating areas due to the impact of climate change. “Climate change which we hardly made any negative contribution towards, is threatening our very culture, very identity,” he added.

Sherpa who also addressed the side event of UNCCC –COP23 in Bonn, Germany focusing on ‘ community experience of the climate change in the Himalayas and solutions’, stated that the scientific community should look at the possibility of setting of a world-class climate research facility in the Himalayas that can be a living laboratory on climate change.

According to Cat Downy of ESA CCI, the programme aims to realise the full potential of the Earth observation satellite archives by providing climate datasets to improve our understanding of the Earth system and help predict future change. “Historical satellite data are combined with new missions to generate information on a wide range of essential climate variables such as greenhouse-gas concentrations, sea-ice extent and thickness, sea-surface temperature and sea-level change.”

–  By Rajan Pokharel for THT

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