Other glaciers will only be saved if greenhouse gas emissions are “significantly reduced” and global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, Paris-based UNESCO warns in a report. .
The world’s melting glaciers are unlocking their secrets too quickly
Of the organization’s more than 1,150 World Heritage Sites, about 50 are glaciers, and together they comprise almost one-tenth of the world’s glacial areas.
About 19,000 glaciers in the heritage site lose more than 60 billion tons of ice each year. This is equivalent to the annual water consumption of Spain and France combined, and accounts for about 5% of global sea level rise.
“Globally, glaciers are retreating at an accelerated rate,” said Teles Carvalho Resende, a UNESCO hydrology expert.
The organization described a “warming cycle” in which the melting of glaciers causes the appearance of a darker surface, which absorbs even more heat and accelerates ice retreat.
In addition to significant reductions in emissions, the UNESCO report calls for better monitoring of glaciers and the use of early warning mechanisms to respond to natural hazards, including flooding, caused by glacial lake rupture. Such floods have already claimed thousands of lives and may have partially contributed to Pakistan’s devastating floods this year.
There have been some local attempts to slow the melting rate, for example by covering the ice with blankets, but Carvalho Resende said scaling up these experiments was “not just costly, but most “It can be very difficult because the glacier is very difficult to access.” ”
Throughout history, glaciers grew during very cold periods and then shrunk as those stretches ended. After the last “Little Ice Age” ended, Nineteenth century.
However, as carbon dioxide emissions surged over the past 100 years, the human factor has begun to accelerate what was expected to be a gradual, natural regression. In Switzerland, the glacier has lost a record 6% of its weight this year alone.
The additional melting has partially offset other impacts of climate change, such as keeping rivers from drying out despite heatwaves, but it is rapidly reaching a tipping point, according to UNESCO.
In its report, the organization wrote that meltwater peaks may have already passed many small glaciers, where water is beginning to decline.
If this trend continues, the organization warned that “little or no base flow will be available during drier periods.”
This change is expected to have major impacts on agriculture, biodiversity and urban life. “Glacier is an important source of life on Earth,” writes UNESCO.
“They provide water resources for at least half of humanity,” said Carvalho Resende, who warned that the cultural loss would also be immeasurable.
Around the world, global warming is exposing ancient artifacts faster than archaeologists can preserve them.
“Some of these glaciers are sacred sites and are of great importance to indigenous peoples and local communities,” he said.
UNESCO gave the example of the Snow Star Festival, which has been held for centuries in the Peruvian Andes, but which has already been affected by ice loss. It used to share blocks with pilgrims, but the practice was discontinued when locals noticed a rapid decline in recent years.
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Small glaciers at low or medium altitude disappear first. UNESCO says the rate of ice loss in smaller glacier regions “more than doubled from the early 2000s to the late 2010s.”
This is consistent with observations by researchers who have studied glacier retreat. European glaciologist Matthias Hus said scientists had seen “very strong melting in the last 20 years” in Switzerland.
At the same time, fewer and fewer places are cold enough for glaciers to actually grow. “Currently, the limit at which glaciers can form new ice is about 3,000 meters. [about 9,840 feet]’” he said, explaining that its altitude has increased by hundreds of meters in recent decades.