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World Heritage Glaciers: Sentinels of Climate Change – World


Short summary

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could save glaciers at two-thirds of World Heritage sites

Glaciers are crucial sources of life on Earth as they provide vital water resources to half of humanity for domestic use, agriculture and hydroelectricity. They are also sacred places for many local communities and attract millions of tourists worldwide.
Glaciers are among the most valuable indicators for understanding climate change.
Among the most dramatic evidence that the Earth’s climate is warming is the retreat and disappearance of glaciers around the world. Closely observing and quantifying this phenomenon is essential to developing effective adaptation responses.
About 18,600 glaciers have been identified at 50 World Heritage sites. These glaciers extend over an area of ​​approximately 66,000 km², representing nearly 10% of the Earth’s glacial surface.
Research studies using satellite data show that these glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000. World Heritage glaciers lose an average of 58 billion tonnes of ice each year, equivalent to the total annual volume of water consumed in France and Spain together. and contribute nearly 5% of observed global sea-level rise. Projections indicate that glaciers in one-third of glacial World Heritage sites will disappear by 2050, regardless of the climate scenario applied, and glaciers at about half of all sites could almost entirely disappear by 2100 under a business-as-usual emissions scenario.
The most important protective measure to counter the substantial retreat of glaciers around the world is to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If emissions are drastically reduced to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the glaciers of two-thirds of World Heritage sites could be saved. At the site level, adaptation measures need to be strengthened to respond to inevitable glacier changes in the near future. These include identifying knowledge gaps and improving monitoring networks, designing and implementing early warning and disaster risk reduction measures, placing glaciers at the center of policy and to promote knowledge exchange, stakeholder engagement and communication.
The successful implementation of these measures requires the mobilization of key stakeholders (e.g. governments, civil society, indigenous peoples, local communities and the private sector) to develop sustainable financing and investments, including through the creation of an international fund for glacier research and monitoring. .