Glaciers in Yosemite and Africa will disappear by 2050, U.N. warns

Opinion

Paris – At least a third of the world’s heritage sites, including Yosemite National Park, will lose glaciers by mid-century, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization warned in a report on Thursday.

Although global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), which now seems unlikely, all the glaciers in Yosemite and the ice sheets of Yellowstone National Park, as well as the few remaining glaciers in Africa, will disappear.

Other glaciers can only be saved if greenhouse gas emissions are “drastically reduced” and if global warming is kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius, Paris-based UNESCO warned in a report.

The world’s glaciers are quickly giving up their secrets

About 50 of the organization’s more than 1,150 World Heritage Sites have glaciers, which together account for one-tenth of the world’s glacier area.

The approximately 19,000 glaciers on the site are losing more than 60 billion tons of ice a year, equivalent to the annual water consumption of Spain and France combined, and 5 percent of global sea level rise, UNESCO said.

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“Glaciers are retreating at an accelerated rate around the world,” said UNESCO hydrologist Thales Carvalho Resende.

The organization described a “thermal cycle” in which melting glaciers cause darker patches to appear, which then absorb more heat and accelerate the glacier’s retreat.

In addition to significant emissions reductions, the UNESCO report calls for better monitoring of glaciers and the use of early warning systems to prevent natural disasters, including floods caused by the collapse of glacial lakes. Such floods have claimed thousands of lives and may have partly fueled Pakistan’s worst floods this year.

While some domestic attempts have been made to slow the rate of melting — such as covering the snow with blankets — Carvalho Resende warned that scaling up those experiments “could be very challenging.” “

Throughout history, glaciers have grown during periods of extreme cold and then receded when those stretches ended. The world’s last very cold period ended about 10,000 years ago, and some more natural melting is expected in Europe. After the last “Little Ice Age” ended in 19th century.

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But as carbon dioxide emissions increased over the past century, human factors began to accelerate what was expected to be a gradual natural retreat. In Switzerland, glaciers have lost 6 percent of their volume this year.

Although the additional melting has somewhat offset other effects of climate change – for example, preventing rivers from drying up despite heat waves – it is quickly reaching a critical point, UNESCO says.

In the Forkel Glacier in Switzerland, scientists have discovered ancient artifacts where the ground was once frozen. (Video: Rick Noack/Washington Post)

The organization said in the report that the high level in the melt water may have already passed on many small glaciers, and the water is now receding.

If the trend continues, the agency warned, “there will be little to no base flow during the dry season.”

The changes are expected to have significant impacts on agriculture, biodiversity and urban life. “Glaciers are a vital source of life on Earth,” writes UNESCO.

“They provide water resources to at least half of humanity,” Carvalho Resende said, warning that the cultural damage would be high.

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Global warming is exposing ancient artifacts faster than archaeologists can save them.

“Some of these glaciers are sacred sites, which are very important to indigenous and local communities,” he said.

UNESCO cited the centuries-old Snow Star Festival in Peru as an example. Spiritual leaders once shared the glacier with pilgrims, but the practice has stopped as locals have seen a rapid retreat in recent years.

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The beginnings of small glaciers at low or medium altitudes disappear. According to UNESCO, the rate of snow loss in small glaciated areas “more than doubled from the early 2000s to the late 2010s.”

This matches the observations of researchers who have studied glacier retreat. Matthias Huss, a European glaciologist, said scientists had seen “the most intense melting in the last two decades” in Switzerland.

At the same time, the freezing areas for glaciers to grow properly are shrinking. “Currently, the limit to which glaciers can create new ice is around 3,000 meters [about 9,840 feet]He explained that this height has risen by several hundred meters in recent decades.

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