Global warming benefits to Tibet: Chinese official


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2009 at 1:30 AM EDT

Global warming could prove devastating for the Tibetan plateau, the world's third-largest store of ice, but it helps farming and tourism, Chinese state media said Tuesday, citing a leading expert.

Qin Dahe, the former head of the China Meteorological Administration, made the comment in an otherwise gloomy assessment of the impact that rising temperatures will have on Tibet, according to the China Daily newspaper.

"Warming is good for agriculture and tourism. It has increased the growing season of crops," said Qin, now a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

China is banking on tourism to help fund development in Tibet, one of its poorest regions, hoping that a railway to the region's capital Lhasa will boost visitor numbers.

From January to July this year, more than 2.7 million tourists visited Tibet, nearly triple the number in the same period of 2008, the Tibet Daily said recently.

While agriculture and tourism stand to benefit, Qin underlined a series of negative consequences that global warming will have in Tibet and surrounding areas.

Temperatures are rising four times faster than elsewhere in China, and the Tibetan glaciers are retreating at a higher speed than in any other part of the world, he told the paper.

"In the short term, this will cause lakes to expand and bring floods and mudflows," Qin told the paper.

"In the long run, the glaciers are vital lifelines for Asian rivers, including the Indus and the Ganges. Once they vanish, water supplies in those regions will be in peril."

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