Meltdown: Climate Change and Environmental Degradation on the Tibetan Plateau
Rising temperatures on the Tibetan Plateau in western China are causing melting glaciers and environmental degradation, threatening the vulnerable communities that inhabit the roof of the world.
The Tibetan Plateau covers approximately 25 percent of China’s surface area, spreading out over 2.5 million sq. km in the west of the country. It is home to the largest store of freshwater outside of the North and South Poles, feeding water into Asia’s major rivers which supply water to over a billion people.
As a result of anthropogenic climate change, temperatures are rising on the Tibetan Plateau faster than anywhere else in Asia. The effects of these changes are becoming more evident in the form of melting glaciers, increasing desertification and degraded grasslands.
Forced resettlement programs have been introduced to relocate tens of thousands of nomads who are blamed for contributing to the deterioration of the plateau. Increased mining operations near so-called protected areas also fuel degradation on the plateau creating conflicts between native Tibetans and Han Chinese.
This project highlights the major challenges associated with climate change and the resulting social issues that have appeared in recent years. The vivid transformations on the Tibetan Plateau have important ramifications not only for China, but also for the rest of Asia as climate patterns change across the continent and fragile communities are further threatened.
Sean Gallagher is a British photographer and videographer, based in China. Graduating in Zoology from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, he subsequently changed career direction into...
September 26, 2012 / Untold Stories
The Yangtze, Mekong and Yellow Rivers all originate on the Tibetan Plateau. Rising temperatures are threatening the sources of these major waterways that serve millions who live downstream.
The 2012 Photocrati Fund honors the work of Pulitzer Center grantees Peter DiCampo and Sean Gallagher.
August 15, 2012 / Untold Stories
Dam building, melting glaciers and increased flooding are just some of the threats to the Tibetan people of north Sichuan. In the town of Blackwater, these threats are becoming all too real.
August 1, 2012 / Untold Stories
What are the implications of rising temperatures for the glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau—a region that feeds Asia's mightiest rivers and provides water for a billion people?
"We will illuminate dark places and, with a deep sense of responsibility, interpret these troubled times."
JOSEPH PULITZER III (1913-1993)