World heritage glaciers such as the Grosser Aletschgletscher in the Swiss Alps, Khumbu Glacier in the Himalayas and Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae are set to disappear completely by 2100 if the current emission scenario continues, researchers have claimed.
According to the study published in the Journal of Earth"s Future, scientists have combined data to analyse the current state of World Heritage glaciers. The authors predicted glacier extinction by 2100 under a high emission scenario in 21 of the 46 natural world heritage sites where glaciers are currently found.
"Losing these iconic glaciers would be a tragedy and have major consequences for the availability of water resources, sea level rise, and weather patterns. This unprecedented decline could also jeopardise the listing of the sites in question on the World Heritage list. States must reinforce their commitments to combat climate change and step up efforts to preserve these glaciers for future generations," said Director, Peter Shadie.
Several iconic landscapes found in World Heritage sites will be impacted by rising temperatures.
- Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina contains some of the largest glaciers on Earth and a very large ice loss – about 60 per cent of the current volume -- is predicted by 2100 within this site.
- In North America, Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, and Olympic National Park could also lose more than 70 per cent of their current glacier ice by 2100, even under drastically lowered carbon dioxide emissions.
- In Europe, the disappearance of small glaciers is projected in the Pyrénées – Mont Perdu World Heritage site before 2040.
- Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand, which contains three-quarters of New Zealand"s glaciers, is projected to lose 25 per cent to 80 per cent of the current ice volume over the course of this century.
Beyond these alarming results, the authors emphasise the key role that glaciers play for ecosystems and societies on a global scale. Glacier conservation could thus serve as a trigger to tackle the unprecedented issue of climate change.
"To preserve these iconic glaciers found in World Heritage sites, we urgently need to see significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. This is the only way of avoiding long-lasting and irreversible glacier decline and the related major natural, social, economic and migratory cascading consequences.
The study on glacier decline further emphasises the need for individual and collective actions to achieve the mitigation and adaptation aspirations of the Paris Agreement on climate change," said Jean-Baptiste Bosson, lead author of the new study.