Glaciers in Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks will disappear in the next 30 years, UN researchers say.

Glaciers in Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks will disappear in the next 30 years, UN researchers say.

The climate crisis affects almost all regions of the world. But perhaps one of the most visible indicators of its impact is its impact on Earth’s iconic glaciers, which are the main source of fresh water supplies.

Glaciers have been melting at a furious rate in recent decades, leading to an estimated 20% rise in global sea levels since 2000.

Now researchers at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization have found that the glaciers in one-third of the planet’s most beautiful parks and protected areas will disappear by 2050, whether or not global warming slows.

Among the endangered glaciers at World Heritage Sites are two of the most visited and beloved parks in the United States, Yellowstone National Park, which saw unprecedented flooding earlier this year, and Yosemite National Park.

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, particularly Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro.

The glaciers of the World Heritage sites dump about 58 billion tons of ice annually, according to UNESCO, which is equivalent to the combined volume of water used in France and Spain each year. And these glaciers have already contributed to nearly 5% of global sea level rise in the past 20 years.

The study provides the first global assessment of both the current and future scenario of glaciers at World Heritage sites, according to Tals Carvalho Resende, Program Officer of UNESCO’s Natural Heritage Division and author of the report.

“This report brings a very powerful message that World Heritage sites are iconic places. places that are extremely important to humanity, but especially to local communities and indigenous peoples,” Resende told CNN. “Ice loss and glacial retreat are accelerating, so this sends an alarming message.”

Only by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels can we save the glaciers in the other two-thirds of these packs, the scientists report. After the industrial revolution, the global average temperature has already risen by about 1.2 degrees.

Glaciers cover about 10% of the land, providing fresh water supplies for households, agriculture and industry. Under normal conditions, it takes up to a millennium for their complete formation. each year they gain mass through snow or rain and lose mass by melting in the summer.

Melting glaciers may seem like a distant problem, but Resende said it’s a serious global problem that can hit downstream communities hard. He highlighted Pakistan’s deadly floods this year, which left nearly a third of the country under water. Reports said the weeks-long floods were likely caused by a combination of heavier-than-usual monsoon rains and the outbreak of several glacial lakes due to melting that followed the recent extreme heat that gripped the region.

“As the water melts, that water will accumulate in what we call glacial lakes, and when the water comes, these glacial lakes can burst,” he said. “And this eruption can cause catastrophic flooding, which we can see recently in Pakistan.”

Thomas Slater, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds in London, noted that these glaciers contribute a small fraction of sea level rise compared to the amount of ice loss from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Researchers like Slater have already found that these ice sheets are the main contributors to global sea level rise this century.

“While it is sad to hear that some of these glaciers may be lost, we should be hopeful that reducing emissions can save the majority of them and avoid water supply disruptions for millions of people worldwide who live downstream,” he said. is Slater. told CNN he was not involved in the UN report.

As the climate crisis accelerates, more water will be released from glaciers. In drought-stricken areas like the western US, the increased meltwater can be a good thing, but Resende said it’s only temporary.

Once a glacier reaches its water peak, the maximum meltwater it contributes to the system, the annual runoff decreases as the glacier shrinks to the point where it can no longer supply water.

According to the report, many small glaciers in the Andes, central Europe and western Canada have either already reached peak water or are expected to in the coming years. In the Himalayas, meanwhile, annual glacier runoff is projected to jump around 2050 before sinking steadily thereafter.

If countries fail to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees, glaciers will only continue to retreat, the report said. In that future, locations experience significant glacier runoff during wet periods with little or no flow to quench drier, warmer conditions.

“This is a hot topic in the research community right now. to see what the landscape will look like after the glaciers melt,” Resende said.

“Unfortunately, the glaciers will continue to melt because there is always a delay. Even if we stop or drastically reduce our emissions today, they will continue to recede because there is this inertia, and it’s critical that we can take adaptation measures.”

The report comes as world leaders gather next week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for UN-brokered international climate talks, which will focus on stronger fossil fuel cuts that would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. They will also discuss plans to adapt to extreme weather events, including heat waves, floods and hurricanes.

“We need to really come together to make this 1.5 goal as achievable as possible,” Resende said. “The effects could be irreversible, so this really warrants urgent action.”

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