New research shows that even if the 1.5 degree target in the Paris Agreement is reached, half of the world’s glaciers could become history by the end of the century.
The new study, published in the journal Science, shows that smaller glaciers in particular are at risk of disappearing. This research is the largest work done to date on the future of the world’s 215,000 glaciers.
The study’s authors stress the importance of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the consequences of melting glaciers – such as sea level rise and water resource depletion.
The study looks at four scenarios where the global average temperature rises by 1.5, 2, 3 and 4 degrees, respectively.
– Lost anyway
– Each increase in degree guarantees more melting, Regine Hook, co-author of the study, told AFP. It is affiliated with the University of Oslo and the University of Fairbanks in Alaska, USA.
– But it also means that if you reduce the increase in temperature, the loss of glaciers will be reduced. In this sense, there is also some hope, she says.
The target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels is the most ambitious target of the Paris agreement. However, 49 percent of the world’s glaciers will disappear.
This corresponds to approximately 26 percent of the total mass of glaciers in the world, as it is the smallest glaciers that will disappear first.
Places with relatively little ice such as the European Alps, the Caucasus, the Andes or the western United States will lose all their ice by the end of the century regardless of the emissions scenario. Those glaciers are lost anyway, Hook says.
Currently, the global average temperature is expected to rise by 2.7 degrees.
If the global temperature increase were 4 degrees, 83 percent of the world’s glaciers would disappear, according to the research.
The study’s estimates are more pessimistic than those of climate experts at the United Nations. The researchers arrived at it by monitoring the mass of each glacier over several decades, and through computer simulations.
Despite the discouraging results, Hook says it is possible to avoid the worst losses.
Whether or not that happens is up to the world’s decision makers, she says.
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