One-third of the world’s most iconic glaciers have been “condemned to disappear” within 23 years, according to a new report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The fate of these glaciers, which include those in Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Dolomites, is all but sure, UNESCO warned, as carbon emissions cause them to rapidly deteriorate.
There are roughly 18,600 glaciers in 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites, spanning nearly 25,500 square-miles and making up about 10% of the planet’s glaciers. But since 2000, these glaciers have been rapidly losing their ice — about 58 billion tons every year, an amount equivalent “to the combined annual water use of France and Spain,” the report says. That lost ice is responsible for about 5% of global sea level rise.
That deterioration of the glaciers — referred to as “sentinels of climate change” by UNESCO — is spurred by carbon dioxide emissions. This type of greenhouse gas emission has increased by about 90% since 1970, according to the EPA, with most of those emissions coming from the burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes. China emits the most carbon dioxide, the EPA says, followed by the U.S. [Continue reading…]