A third of world heritage glaciers under threat, warns UNESCO study

Source: The post is based on the article A third of world heritage glaciers under threat, warns UNESCO studypublished in The Hindu on 6th November 2022. 

What is the News?

A study conducted by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has found that one-third of the glaciers on the UNESCO World Heritage list are under threat, regardless of efforts to limit temperature increases.

What are the key findings of the study?

Around 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites are home to glaciers representing almost 10% of the Earth’s total glacierized area.

These glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000 due to CO2 emissions, which are warming temperatures.

They are currently losing 58 billion tons of ice every year – equivalent to the combined annual water use of France and Spain – and are responsible for nearly 5% of observed global sea-level rise.

The glaciers under threat are in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania.

Africa: All World Heritage sites in Africa will very likely be gone by 2050 including Kilimanjaro National Park and Mount Kenya.

Asia: Glaciers in Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (China) – highest mass loss relative to 2000 (57.2%) and also the fastest melting glacier on the List.

Europe: Glaciers in Pyrenees Mont Perdu (France, Spain) – very likely to disappear by 2050.

What is the importance of Glaciers?

Half of humanity depends directly or indirectly on glaciers as their water source for domestic use, agriculture, and power. Glaciers are also pillars of biodiversity, feeding many ecosystems.

When glaciers melt rapidly, millions of people face water scarcity and the increased risk of natural disasters such as flooding, and millions more may be displaced by the resulting rise in sea levels.

What are the suggestions given by the study?

Firstly, it is possible to save the other two-thirds of the glaciers on the UNESCO World Heritage list if the rise in global temperatures did not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era.

Secondly, there is also a need for the creation of a new international fund for glacier monitoring and preservation. Such a fund would support comprehensive research, promote exchange networks between all stakeholders and implement early warning and disaster risk reduction measures.

Thirdly, there is an 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.

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