"On human time scales, we have never seen glacial melt this rapid, this fast."

Melting Point

The Himalayas are going to look quite different once a large chunk of its glaciers melts away in less than 80 years — if climate change continues like a runaway train, a global group of scientists and researchers warn in a new alarming report.

As much as 80 percent of glaciers could vanish by the year 2100 if global temperatures rise by four degrees Celsius.

These huge deposits of ice and snow are already melting at an "unprecedented" rate, changes that are "largely irreversible," according to a new report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The scientists are warning that when the glaciers melt, this slow-moving disaster will send a tidal wave of destructive floods, landslides, and avalanches that will destroy fragile ecosystems, infrastructure, and precious farmland in the larger region.

All told, an estimated two billion people in the area, both up high in the mountains and downstream, could be put in harm's way if global warming stays on its current projected path.

"This is a lot, this is alarming," Philippus Wester, lead editor of the report and the agency's chief scientist on water resources management, told CBS News."On human time scales, we have never seen glacial melt this rapid, this fast… this is unprecedented."

No Turning Back

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, a more than 2,1oo mile stretch of breathtaking landscape, is incredibly important because it contains "the largest volume of ice on Earth outside of the polar regions" and is often called the "Third Pole," according to the report.

Water from its glaciers feeds some of the most well-known rivers on Earth: the Ganges, Indus, Mekong, Yangtse, and Yellow — all of which are and have been important sources of water for major civilizations throughout history.

The melting glaciers may also indirectly impact places as far as the United States and perhaps the whole world, Izabella Koziell, deputy director general of ICIMOD, told CBS News.

"The people who are losing their livelihoods, of which there are 2 billion people — that's a quarter of the world's population — where will they go?" Koziell said.

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