Prince William calls for action on climate change after visiting vanishing Pakistan glacier

By Zach Harper

Prince William and Duchess Kate saw some of the dramatic and devastating effects of climate change first hand in a visit to a melting glacier in Pakistan’s north on Oct. 16, prompting the future King to call for the world to do more to stem what he called an “impending global catastrophe.”

The couple were in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to see the Chiatibo glacier, one of such 7,200 spectacular dense bodies of mountain ice found in Pakistan. Many of them are in parts of the Hindu Kush mountain range in Khyber Pakhtukhwa and neighbouring Gilgit-Baltistan province, both of which border Afghanistan.

While visiting Chiatibo, the couple were accompanied by Dr. Furrukh Bashir of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, who said while there are more than 5,000 glaciers in the area, about 70 per cent of them are receding or melting due to climate change.

Melting glaciers in Pakistan will not just affect communities there, but also in Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries. Photo: © Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images

About 250 million people in the area rely on the glaciers for water, with a further 1.6 billion people using rivers that have their sources in the mountains and its glaciers. Their recession poses major issues for those populations when it comes to the availability of water.

“This could lead to a loss of over a third of these vital glaciers in less than a century, with enormous impacts not only on the availability of water, but on agriculture and hydropower generation,” the Duke of Cambridge said in a speech the day before, according to Reuters. “I hope to learn what more we all can do to help prevent and mitigate this impending global catastrophe.”

Chiatibo is just one of many melting glaciers in northern Pakistan. Photo: © Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images

Chiatibo’s melting has also caused extensive flooding in the region, affecting the Kalash ethnic group particularly hard. William and Kate visited the village of Bumburet near the glacier on Oct. 16 and spoke with residents who had been hit by natural disasters due to flooding from the receding glacier. They also toured damage from flooding, and received a demonstration of an emergency unit’s response drills – unfortunately an increasingly vital service due to climate change and the collateral damage it is causing. That includes boulders falling on homes due to extensive flood water.

Chiatibo’s melting has devastated Kalash communities in northern Pakistan. William and Kate saw some of the damage. Photo: © Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images

In his speech, William praised action being taken by “young people” (activists such as Greta Thunberg spring to mind), but also said there needs to be “more education, more awareness and political action” around the issue.

“Catherine and I felt it was very important to come to Pakistan and see the different range of environments there are and, and really try and get a feel of the country,” the Telegraph reports he said in a separate interview. “But also to use our voice and lend our position and our visit to kind of talk about issues like climate change, issues about the environment.

“We’ve seen all around the world now, the young are getting very engaged in what’s going on. And I think it’s fantastic that we can all come together and really have a very good conversation about what we need to do, and that action needs to happen very soon. A lot people rely on this and if we take too long about this we will lose many of the precious things we care about.”

PHOTOS: The best pictures from Prince William and Duchess Kate’s royal tour of Pakistan

The royals are passionate advocates on the issue of climate change. The cause is particularly important to William’s father, Prince Charles, who was warning of “catastrophic” consequences due to climate change in 2012. Earlier this year, Charles said changes to mitigate climate change’s effects and protect the planet are happening “too slowly”

“We seem to have forgotten that everything in nature is interconnected, including ourselves,” the Prince of Wales told the Telegraph earlier this year.

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