5 Myths About China and the Environment

Guest Blogger on National Geographic, 5 September 2013

Myth: The High Tibetan Plateau is Buffered from Climate Change

“The North Pole, South Pole, and Tibetan Plateau are changing more rapidly than elsewhere,” says Marc Foggin, executive director of Plateau Perspectives, an international organization that aims to improve local people’s lives and protect the natural environment through community-based projects.

“There is a demonstrated increase in temperature over time and it is doubling that of the global overall average increase in temperature,” said Foggin.

Glaciers in the west of China on the Tibetan Plateau have been retreating since the beginning of the 20th Century. The retreat has accelerated since the 1980s.

“Grasslands [on the Tibetan Plateau] and the peatlands within them serve effectively as a sponge,” explains Foggin. But when that land is degraded, it can no longer store water from spring melt, and that leads to flooding.