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The United Nations reveals significant and concerning glacial melting beyond normal levels.


Reference glaciers of 40 rivers in the world experienced an average thickness loss of more than 1.3 meters between October 2021 and October 2022.

The United Nations said on Friday that the world’s glaciers melted very quickly last year, and saving them is already a lost cause, as climate change indicators once again reached record levels.

The United Nations World Meteorological Organization said the past eight years were the warmest on record, while concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide peaked.

“Antarctic sea ice has fallen to an all-time low, and the melting of some European glaciers has been, literally, off the charts,” the World Meteorological Organization said as it launched its annual climate review.

Sea levels are also at a record high, rising at a rate of 4.62 mm per year between 2013 and 2022 – double the annual rate between 1993 and 2002.

Record high temperatures have also been recorded in the oceans – where about 90 percent of the heat trapped on Earth ends up due to greenhouse gases.

The 2015 Paris Agreement saw countries agree to cap global warming at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above average levels measured between 1850 and 1900 – and 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible.

The World Meteorological Organization report said the average global temperature in 2022 was 1.15 degrees Celsius above the 1850-1900 average.

Record average global temperatures over the past eight years have come despite the cooling effect of the extended La Nina weather phenomenon that spanned nearly half of that period.

The report said that greenhouse gas concentrations reached new records in 2021.

The global concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) was 415.7 ppm, or 149% of the pre-industrial level (1750), while methane reached 262% and nitrous oxide 124%.

The data shows that it continued to increase in 2022.

I lost the glacier game

WMO President Petteri Taalas told a news conference that extreme weather caused by greenhouse gas emissions “may persist well into the 2060s, regardless of our success in mitigating climate change.”

“We’ve already released so much, especially carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere that it takes several decades for this kind of phasing out of the negative trend.”

The world’s 40 individual reference glaciers – those for which there are long-term observations – experienced an average thickness loss of more than 1.3 meters between October 2021 and October 2022 – a much greater loss than the average over the past decade.

Cumulative fish losses since 1970 are approximately 30 metres.

In Europe, the Alps broke records for glacier melt due to a combination of little winter snow, intrusion of Saharan dust in March 2022 and heatwaves between May and early September.

“We’ve already lost the melting game of glaciers, because we already have such a high concentration of carbon dioxide,” Talas told AFP.

In the Swiss Alps, “last summer we lost 6.2 percent of the glacier’s mass, the highest since records began.”

“This is dangerous,” he said, explaining that the disappearance of glaciers will limit the supply of fresh water for humans and for agriculture, and also harm transport links if rivers become less navigable, describing it as a “huge risk for the future.”

“Many of these mountain glaciers will disappear, and glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland will continue to shrink over the long term – unless we create a way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” he said.

A glimmer of hope

Despite the bad news in the report, Taalas said there is cause for some optimism.

He said the means to combat climate change are becoming more affordable, as green energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuels, while the world develops better mitigation methods.

He said the planet is no longer on track for a 3-5°C warming, as predicted in 2014, but is now on track for a 2.5-3°C warming.

“In the best case scenario, we will still be able to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius, which would be better for the well-being of humanity, the biosphere and the global economy,” the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization told AFP.

Taalas said 32 countries have reduced their emissions and their economies are still growing.

“There is no longer an automatic link between economic growth and emissions growth,” he said.

In stark contrast to world leaders 10 years ago, he said, “practically every one of them is talking about climate change as a serious problem and countries are starting to act.”

© 2023 AFP

the quote: UN reports “From the Graphs” Melting Glaciers (2023, April 21) Retrieved April 21, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-glaciers.html

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