Glaciers around the world are in grave danger.
More than 215,000 glaciers exist outside of Antarctica and Greenland, according to a new study that was published in Science on Thursday. It came to the conclusion that even if policymakers are successful in keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, nearly half of them might melt by the end of the century.
According to University of Bristol glaciologist Professor Jonathan Bamber, who was not involved with the work, this is the most thorough and rigorous analysis of future glacier trends yet. Even at 1.5C, half of all glaciers will have vanished by 2100, according to some grim figures. The situation will be significantly worse and have substantial repercussions for populations that depend on glacier runoff for water resources, according to current national climate pledges.
Glaciers are quite significant. They supply water to some 1.9 billion people globally, according to The Washington Post. According to a perspective piece on the results, which was also published in Science on Thursday, losing them deprives millions of people of this essential resource and raises the danger of glacier-related catastrophes like floods and landslides. Furthermore, glaciers today contribute just as much to the rise in sea level as the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.
Millions (yes, millions!) of people are supported by glaciers through the provision of electricity, drinking water, agricultural water, and other services, according to National Snow and Ice Center Deputy Lead Scientist Twila Moon, who was not involved in the study.
According to Carbon Brief, the article was the first to examine how the climate crisis would affect each of the world’s glaciers between 2015 and 2100 and discovered that they were more vulnerable than earlier predictions showed. The research team was able to expand on a 2100 study that described glacier erosion over the previous two decades, according to the study’s lead author, Dr. David Rounce, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Compared to earlier models that employed regional data or in-situ measurements from a small number of glaciers, we now have a considerably more thorough and in-depth view of the current glacier mass shift, he said.
According to The Washington Post, they discovered that if world leaders are successful in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as per the Paris Agreement’s attainable target, approximately 104,000 glaciers would melt and sea levels would increase by slightly under four inches.
Read More: A Report Finds that Hundreds of Thousands More U.S. Service Members Are Exposed to Toxic Chemicals than The Dod Knows About.
According to national policies that placed the world on track for 2.7 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperatures before the COP26 climate conference, melting 68 percent of the world’s glaciers and 4.5 inches of sea level rise would throw more than 10 million people below the high tide line. According to Carbon Brief, it would also virtually wipe out the glaciers in central Europe, western North America, and New Zealand. Eighty-three percent of the world’s glaciers would melt with four-degree warming.
According to Rounce, any decrease in global warming will have a significant effect on sea level rise and the melting of glaciers.
The loss of glaciers will be damaging to many people’s cultural identities in addition to the loss of drinking water and coastline.
Significant glacier loss indicates that we are actively participating in robbing the future of our offspring, rather than just seeing a shift in the environment or a loss of natural resources. Dr. Pasang Sherpa, an Indigenous anthropologist at the University of British Columbia who is from Pharak in the Nepalese Himalayas but was not involved in the study, spoke to Carbon Brief. Without the mountains as we know them, what are mountain people?
Read More: 2022’s U.S. Climate Disasters, From Storms and Floods to Heat Waves and Droughts
Even though the scientists’ news was depressing, they did not take it as a reason to give up on trying to stop climate change.
According to research co-author Regine Hock, a glaciologist from the Universities of Alaska Fairbanks and Oslo in Norway, it is now too late for many tiny glaciers. However, overall, our findings make it obvious that every degree of global temperature matters in order to maintain as much ice locked up in the glaciers as possible.