Melting glaciers raise sea levels dramatically, jeopardising up to two billion people’s access to water and increasing the risk of natural disasters
Glaciers are receding at unprecedented rates due to climate change and rising temperatures. Half the Earth’s glaciers are destined to vanish by 2100, even if we adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a new study has warned.
A minimum of 50 per cent of the loss will occur within the next 30 years, said the findings of the study published in the journal Science January 5, 2023.
“The loss of these glaciers, especially over time horizons that are within our lifetime or our children’s lifetime, is really disturbing,” David Rounce, a glaciologist at Carnegie Mellon University and lead author of the report, told CNN.
Rounce and his team came up with projections for each glacier after analysing satellite images.
Losses would be more severe, with 68 per cent of glaciers vanishing, if global warming continues at the current rate of 2.7°C. If this happens, by the end of the following century, there would be practically no glaciers left in central Europe, western Canada and the United States.
Some of these glaciers can be saved from extinction by reducing global warming, the researchers noted.
“Every degree increase produces more melt and loss,” Regine Hock of the University of Oslo and University of Alaska Fairbanks, a co-author of the study, told AFP.
Watch video: Highest glacier on Mt Everest is rapidly melting
The effects of glacier loss are more severe than previously assumed.
Glaciers, which hold 70 per cent of the Earth’s freshwater, currently encompass around 10 per cent of the planet’s land area.
Melting glaciers raise sea levels dramatically, jeopardising up to two billion people’s access to water and increasing the risk of natural disasters and extreme weather events like floods.
“The rapidly increasing glacier mass losses as global temperature increases beyond 1.5C stresses the urgency of establishing more ambitious climate pledges to preserve the glaciers in these mountainous regions,” the researchers wrote.
The amount of ice lost by glaciers between 1994 and 2017 was around 30 trillion tonnes and they are now melting at a pace of 1.2 trillion tonnes each year.
The glaciers in the Alps, Iceland and Alaska are some of those that are melting at the quickest rates. Global sea level rose by 21 per cent between 2000 and 2019. This was solely due to meltwater from melting glaciers and ice sheets, according to another study published in the journal Nature.
The United Nation’s (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report released in 2022 also warned that we are running out of time to attain the 1.5°C target.
A UN research published late last year said that the globe is already on course to warm over 2°C and warned that the threshold may be crossed as early as 2030.
Despite the disturbing findings, “it is possible to reduce the mass loss by human action,” Hock told AFP.
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