The glaciers of a third of the sites are threatened, regardless of efforts to limit the rise in temperatures.
However, the study points out that it is still possible to save the other two thirds, if the rise in global temperatures does not exceed 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era. UNESCO says this will be a major challenge for delegates at the upcoming COP27.
Fifty UNESCO World Heritage Sites are home to glaciers, representing almost 10% of the Earth’s total glacier surface. They include the tallest (next to Mount Everest), the longest (in Alaska), and the last remaining glacier in Africa.
The UNESCO study, in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), shows that these glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000 due to CO2 emissions, which are warming temperatures.
They currently lose 58 billion tonnes of ice every year, equivalent to the combined annual water consumption of France and Spain, and are responsible for almost 5% of the observed global rise in sea levels. the sea. Threatened glaciers are found in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania.
Call to action
“This report is a call to action. Only a rapid reduction in our CO2 emissions can save the glaciers and the exceptional biodiversity that depends on them. COP27 will have a crucial role in helping to find solutions to this problem. UNESCO is determined to support States in the pursuit of this objective,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.
In addition to the drastic reduction of carbon emissions, UNESCO is advocating for the creation of a new international fund for the monitoring and preservation of glaciers. Such a fund would support in-depth research, promote exchange networks among all stakeholders and implement early warning and disaster risk reduction measures.
Half of humanity depends directly or indirectly on glaciers as a source of water for domestic use, agriculture and energy. Glaciers are also pillars of biodiversity, feeding many ecosystems.
“When glaciers melt rapidly, millions of people face water scarcity and increased risk of natural disasters such as floods, and millions more could be displaced by rising sea levels which results,” said IUCN Director General Dr Bruno Oberle.
“This study highlights the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in nature-based solutions, which can help mitigate climate change and enable people to better adapt to its impact”.