Almost half of World Heritage sites could lose their glaciers by 2100

Almost half of World Heritage sites could lose their glaciers by 2100
Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch natural World Heritage site. Credit: IUCN/Martin Price

Glaciers are set to disappear completely from almost half of World Heritage sites if business-as-usual emissions continue, according to the first-ever global study of World Heritage glaciers.

The sites are home to some of the world's most iconic glaciers, such as the Grosser Aletschgletscher in the Swiss Alps, Khumbu Glacier in the Himalayas and Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae.

The study in the AGU journal Earth's Future and co-authored by scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) combines data from a global glacier inventory, a review of existing literature and sophisticated computer modeling to analyze the current state of World Heritage glaciers, their recent evolution, and their projected mass change over the 21st century.

The authors predict glacier extinction by 2100 under a high emission scenario in 21 of the 46 natural World Heritage sites where glaciers are currently found. Even under a low emission scenario, eight of the 46 World Heritage sites will be ice-free by 2100. The study also expects that 33 percent to 60 percent of the total ice volume present in 2017 will be lost by 2100, depending on the emission scenario.

"Losing these iconic glaciers would be a tragedy and have major consequences for the availability of water resources, sea level rise and weather patterns," said Peter Shadie, Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's World Heritage Programme. "This unprecedented decline could also jeopardize 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."

Almost half of World Heritage sites could lose their glaciers by 2100
Xinjiang Tianshan natural World Heritage site in China. Credit: IUCN/Pierre Galland

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 percent 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 percent 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 percent to 80 percent of the current ice volume over the course of this century.

Beyond these alarming results, the authors emphasize the key role that glaciers play for ecosystems and societies at 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," says Jean-Baptiste Bosson, scientific advisor for the IUCN's World Heritage programme and lead author of the new study. "The study on glacier decline further emphasizes the need for individual and collective actions to achieve the mitigation and adaptation aspirations of the Paris Agreement on climate change."

Climate change is the fastest growing threat to natural World Heritage sites, according to the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2 report, with the number of sites threatened by doubling between 2014 and 2017.

The authors of the study also developed the first ever inventory of glaciers on the UNESCO World Heritage list, documenting about 19,000 present in 46 out of the 247 natural World Heritage sites.


Explore further

More than 90% of glacier volume in the Alps could be lost by 2100

More information: Disappearing World Heritage Glaciers as a Keystone of Nature Conservation in a Changing Climate, Earth's Future, DOI: 10.1029/2018EF001139 , https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018EF001139
Citation: Almost half of World Heritage sites could lose their glaciers by 2100 (2019, April 30) retrieved 23 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-world-heritage-sites-glaciers.html
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User comments

Apr 30, 2019
There is always change. Human success and plants and animals as well, is the ability to adapt. Predicting specific change is the work of faith.

Apr 30, 2019
This is one of the dumbest comment deniers keep repeating each year, antigoracle sockpuppet grandfart repeats it like a stringpuppet. Predicting Specific Change with Decades of studies is the work of SCIENCE, spewing this one liner of yours day after day is the work of idiocy !

Apr 30, 2019
There is always change..


There is always death. Grandpa will soon be gone.

Apr 30, 2019
There is always change..


There is always death. Grandpa will soon be gone.
Seriously, this is your argument?

Apr 30, 2019
This is one of the dumbest comment deniers keep repeating each year, antigoracle sockpuppet grandfart repeats it like a stringpuppet. Predicting Specific Change with Decades of studies is the work of SCIENCE, spewing this one liner of yours day after day is the work of idiocy !
So your argument is to insult me? The world has gone on for millions of years to billions of years, yet somehow, now, it won't keep going on because of humans. Nature will bring a balance all on its own. If one looks a human population growth of one percent per year for 6000 years there should be 84 trillion, trillion people on earth. Whereas there are only 7.5 billion. Nature has no trouble bringing balance.

Apr 30, 2019
[Seriously, this is your argument?


It is simply a fact. Climate Change denial is an old man disease.

Apr 30, 2019
So your argument is to insult me?


What insult? You are old. You will soon be dead. Your ignorance will die with you.

The world will be a better place as a result.

The world has gone on for millions of years to billions of years, yet somehow, now, it won't keep going on because of humans.


You don't know how old the world is? Pathetic ignorance.

Nature will bring a balance all on its own.


Absolutely. That is why 50% of the time rocks fall upward so that they balance out those imes they are falling downward.

Nature has no trouble bringing balance.


The death of Warming Denialists will be part of that balance that you claim to exist.

Apr 30, 2019
The AGW Cult believes that repeating a LIE would eventually make it true. Obviously, they don't realize that they need only say it once to their hungry, ignorant Chicken Littles.

IPCC: CLAIMS HIMALAYAN GLACIERS COULD MELT BY 2035 WERE FALSE, SAYS UN SCIENTIST
https://www.thegu...lse-ipcc

LMAO

Apr 30, 2019
The AGW Cult believes that repeating a LIE would eventually make it true. Obviously, they don't realize that they need only say it once to their hungry, ignorant Chicken Littles.

IPCC: CLAIMS HIMALAYAN GLACIERS COULD MELT BY 2035 WERE FALSE, SAYS UN SCIENTIST
https://www.thegu...lse-ipcc

LMAO
I believe in global warming. I think it is a great benefit to the earth, otherwise we were headed for ice planet. Try 2 miles of ice covering all of Canada and much of Russia just 20000 years ago. The earths temperatures were swinging wildly with the low CO2 levels.

Apr 30, 2019
The AGW Cult believes that repeating a LIE would eventually make it true.


Trump has made 10,000 untrue claims as president, factcheckers say

President's 10,000th false claim came on Friday when he discussed the Charlottesville protests, the Washington Post reports

https://www.thegu...ct-check

Apr 30, 2019
IPCC: CLAIMS HIMALAYAN GLACIERS COULD MELT BY 2035 WERE FALSE, SAYS UN SCIENTIST


Yup. A single paragraph in a 9 year old report by the IPCC was found to be in error and was corrected.

The Retard response has been to insist there is a conspiracy.

Apr 30, 2019
I think it is a great benefit to the earth


A temperature rise of 8'C is a human extinction level event.

Have you been a moron all your life?

May 01, 2019
I think it is a great benefit to the earth


A temperature rise of 8'C is a human extinction level event.

Have you been a moron all your life?
The temperature rise will be 3 degree C. Scientists and Engineers are making tens of thousands, if not millions of discoveries, that will make fossil fuel obsolete. It will be a torrent of change over the next 25 years, unless there a mega pandemic that kills of 99 percent of the population, and that will end fossil fuels as well. Don't fret.

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