The last glaciers of Kilimanjaro and Africa to disappear by 2050, the UN says

The glaciers covering Kilimanjaro in Tanzania will have disappeared by 2050

Glaciers around the world, including the last ones in Africa, will inevitably be lost by 2050 to climate change, the UN says in a report.

According to a UNESCO report, glaciers in one-third of the United Nations World Heritage Sites will melt within three decades.

Kilimanjaro’s last glaciers will vanish, as will the glaciers of the Alps and Yosemite National Park in the United States.

They will melt regardless of the world’s actions to combat climate change, say the authors.

The report, which makes projections based on satellite data, comes as world leaders prepare to meet in Egypt for next week’s COP27 climate change conference.

Some 18,600 glaciers have been identified in 50 United Nations World Heritage sites. They represent almost 10% of the Earth’s frozen area and include renowned tourist resorts and places sacred to local populations.

The retreat and disappearance of glaciers was “among the most dramatic evidence of global warming,” the report said.

“We hope we can be wrong, but this is the hard science,” said Tales Carvalho Resende, UNESCO project manager, one of the authors. “Glaciers are one of the valuable indicators of climate change, because they are visible. This is something we can really see happening.”

The remaining glaciers in the other two-thirds of the UN World Heritage Sites could be saved, but only if the world limits global warming to 1.5 ° C, the authors say. Another UN report last week found that the world currently “does not have a credible path” to achieve this.

Glacier seen from the air in the mountains

The glaciers of Yosemite National Park are in danger

The projections are based on an earlier report that used models to calculate how the glaciers at the World Heritage site would change over time.

“What is unprecedented in the historical record is how quickly this is happening,” said Beata Csatho, a University of Buffalo glaciologist who was not involved in the research.

“In the mid-1900s, the glaciers were pretty stable,” he said. “Then there’s this incredibly fast retreat.”

The World Heritage Sites listed as having glaciers that will disappear by 2050 are:

  • Ircane Forests (Iran)

  • Durmitor National Park (Montenegro)

  • Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo)

  • Huanlong Scenic and Historic Landmark (China)

  • Yellowstone National Park (United States of America)

  • Mount Kenya National Park / Natural Forest (Kenya)

  • Pyrenees Mont Perdu (France, Spain)

  • Rwenzori Mountains National Park (Uganda)

  • Putorana Plateau (Russia)

  • Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (Switzerland)

  • Nahanni National Park (Canada)

  • Lorentz National Park (Indonesia)

  • Natural System of the Wrangel Island Reserve (Russia)

  • Kilimanjaro National Park (Tanzania)

  • Yosemite National Park (United States of America)

  • The Dolomites (Italy)

  • Komi virgin forests (Russia)

A man riding a sled through the ice pulled by several dogs

Local communities and indigenous peoples will bear the brunt of the floods caused by the loss of glaciers

The report says that ice loss at world heritage sites may have caused up to 4.5% of the global sea level rise observed between 2000 and 2020. These glaciers lose 58 billion tons of ice each year. the equivalent of the total annual volume of water used in France and Spain combined.

Many people also depend on glaciers as a source of water for domestic and agricultural use, and their loss could lead to a scarcity of fresh water during dry seasons, said Professor Duncan Quincey, a glaciology expert at the University of Leeds. who was not involved in the research.

“This leads to food security concerns because they were using that water to irrigate their crops,” Quincey said.

Local communities and indigenous peoples will bear the brunt of flooding caused by the loss of glaciers, the report’s authors say, calling for early warning and risk reduction systems to be put in place.

However, the most obvious thing we need to do is limit global warming.

“There is a message of hope here,” said Carvalho Resende. “If we can dramatically reduce emissions, we will be able to save most of these glaciers.”

“This is really a call for action at all levels, not just at the political level, but at our level as human beings.”

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