UNESCO: A Third of Glaciers in Word Heritage Sites will Disappear in 2050

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warned that several world heritage sites may become glacier-free by 2050.

What are the findings of the UNESCO survey?

  • A survey of 18,600 glaciers at 50 World Heritage Sites found that the glaciers at one-third of these sites will perish because of global warming regardless of the global efforts towards limiting the temperature rise.
  • According to the report, all of Africa’s World Heritage Sites, including Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro National Park, will become ice-free in three decades.
  • In Europe, some of glaciers of Pyrenees and Dolomites will also disappear. This holds true for glaciers in Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks in America.
  • These glaciers have been depleting at a high rate since the year 2000 because of carbon emissions.
  • Currently, glaciers are losing 50 billion tonnes of ice per annum. This is equal to the total water consumption by France and Spain. It has contributed to 5 per cent rise in the global sea level.
  • According to UNESCO, there is a possibility of saving the remaining two-thirds of sites if the global temperature is maintained below 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period. Countries have set a target of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2030. However, the current trend predict that this goal is unlikely to be reached.
  • At the business-as-usual scenario, about half of the world heritage glaciers will completely disappear by the end of this century.
  • The report stated that only rapid action to reduce emission levels will prevent the glaciers from completely melting and save the unique biodiversity that depends on them.
  • It recommended local governments to make glaciers a priority area for policymaking. It also called for increasing monitoring and research focusing on glaciers.
  • Currently, the fast-paced melting of ice is causing glacier lakes to get filled up. This may lead to the bursting of glacial lakes and cause devastating flooding downstream. Therefore, the report also recommended strengthening disaster risk reduction measures.

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