Preserving the Last Glaciers: Current and Future Scenario of World Heritage Sites and Possible Impacts on Climate Change Goals
“While it’s sad to hear some of these glaciers could be lost, we should take hope in the fact that reducing emissions can save the majority of them and avoid disruption to the water supply of millions of people worldwide who live downstream,” Slater, who is not involved with the UN report, told CNN.
The glaciers on the edge of vanishing at World Heritage sites are some of the most visited and beloved parks in the United States, with the exception of Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, which saw unprecedented flooding this year.
The list also includes some of the largest and most iconic glaciers in Central Asia and Europe as well as the last remaining glaciers in Africa, namely Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro.
According to the author of the report, the current and future scenario of glaciers is the first global assessment of World Heritage sites.
Fresh water supply for households, agriculture, and industry is provided by glaciers. Under normal conditions, they take as long as a millennium to fully form; each year, they gain mass through snow or rain, and lose mass by melting in the summer.
He said the water in the glaciers might burst as water gets into the lakes. There have been catastrophic floods in Pakistan recently, which can be caused by this outburst.
Shrinking glaciers will also have a clear impact on sea level rise. The researchers estimate that a 1- degree Celsius increase in warming would result in 90 millimeter of sea level rise, as opposed to 154 millimeter under a 4- degree Celsius rise.
As world leaders gather in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, next week for the UN-brokered international climate negotiations, the focus will be on getting countries to commit to stronger fossil fuel cuts that would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. They plan to adapt to worsening extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods and storms.
Resende said that they need to unite to make this 1.5 goal feasible. This is a pledge to take urgent action, because the impacts might be irreversible.
The other two-thirds can still be saved — but only if global temperatures don’t exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times, UNESCO says.
The global vulnerability of the Andes region to glacial lake outbursts and climate change: a statement from the International Union for Conservation of Nature
In addition to the glaciers in Italy, France’s Pyrenees, Argentina’s Los Alerces National Park and New Zealand’s Te Wahipounamu, others are also in danger.
The melting glaciers have an impact not only on the environment, but on people, said Bruno Oberle, director-general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in a statement released Thursday.
“This study highlights the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and invest in Nature-based Solutions, which can help mitigate climate change and allow people to better adapt to its impacts,” he added.
UNESCO wants to create an international fund for glacier monitoring and preservation that would support research, strengthen ties between stakeholders and implement disaster risk and early warning measures.
Satellite images are being used to allow scientists to come up with estimates for each individual glacier.
Robinson toldCNN that these dams are not different to constructed dams. “If you take the Hoover Dam, for instance, you’ve got a massive lake behind it, but if you suddenly remove the Hoover Dam, that water has to go somewhere, and it’s going to come cascading down a valley in massive flood waves.”
The study found the region most exposed to these outbursts is High-Mountains Asia, which includes Nepal, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. On average, every person in this region lives within roughly six miles of a glacial lake, scientists noted.
But Robinson said the Andes region, including Peru and Bolivia, was one of the most concerning, considering how little research has been done in the area. Over the past two decades glaciers in the Andes have melted rapidly as a result of the climate crisis and created huge lakes in their wake.
Robinson noted that North America and the European Alps don’t stand out as highly vulnerable, because fewer people live in the vicinities of glacial catchments. Even if the hazards are quite high in these regions, he said, the lack of exposed populations gives them a “low danger score.”
David Rounce, a glaciologist at Carnegie Mellon University who was not involved in the study, said Tuesday’s study is “powerful” in looking at the global comparison, and noted it would be interesting to see how the risk from glacial lake outbursts, as well as emergency management strategies, change over time.
“This is a really nice first pass to understand where we have invested a lot of our time and our research efforts and where we can improve,” Rounce told CNN, adding that the method the authors used could be applied to future projections “to understand where that exposure might change in the future, or where that hazard might change.”
As temperatures continue to warm, Robinson said he hopes their research could help global leaders determine which countries are most in need of early warning systems for extreme flooding caused by glacial melt.
We, as a global community, only have limited resources and some people have more access to them than others. In areas where impacts could possibly be severe we want to make sure those resources are put to good use.
Robinson said that they could work their way down the list to save even more lives by investing in vulnerable countries like India, Pakistan, and China.