A third of glaciers at World Heritage sites will be lost by 2050, says UN climate change report

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Glaciologist Matthias Huss with members of Glacier Watch Switzerland (REUTERS)

A third of all glaciers at UN World Heritage sites will be lost within three decades, a new report on climate change has warned.

The pace of climate change is such that the last glaciers in the Alps, Mount Kilimanjaro and Yosemite National Park will inevitably be lost by 2050, according to the UNESCO report.

Experts say that despite efforts to limit climate change and global temperatures rising by 1.5C, many will still be lost in what experts have called “the most dramatic evidence that the climate of the Earth is warming up.”

“We hope we’re wrong, but that’s hard science,” said Tales Carvalho Resende, UNESCO project officer and one of the authors.

The analysis is based on satellite data and identified 18,600 glaciers across 50 heritage sites.

At current levels, analysis shows that ice loss from heritage sites can cause up to 4.5% of global sea rise between 2000 and 2020, and will negatively impact local communities and peoples indigenous people who depend on the supply of fresh water.

“Glaciers are one of the valuable indicators of climate change because they are visible. It’s something we can actually see happening,” Resende said.

Professor Duncan Quincey, a glaciology expert at the University of Leeds who was not involved in the research, added: “If we can drastically reduce emissions, we can save most of these glaciers.”

“It’s really a call to action at all levels – not just at the political level, but at our level as human beings.”

The analysis comes as world leaders prepare to gather for the COP27 summit in Egypt.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reversed an earlier decision not to attend the summit, adding that there is “no long-term prosperity without action on climate change”.

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