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World's glaciers melting at record rate

by BuaNews Online
on 17 Mar 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

With global glaciers melting at a record rate, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has urged countries to agree on a new emission reduction pact.

Glaciers are a vital water source for millions, or even billions, of people worldwide.

According to the UNEP-backed World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), data from nearly 30 reference glaciers in nine mountain ranges indicate that between the years 2004 and 2005, and 2005 and 2006, the average rate of melting and thinning has more than doubled.

The centre, based at Switzerland's University of Zurich, has been tracking glaciers for more than one century, noted that between 1980 and 1999 the average ice loss had been 0.3 metres per year compared to 0.5 metres after the start of the new millennium.

"The latest figures are part of what appears to be an accelerating trend with no apparent end in sight," said Wilfried Haeberli, WGMS Director.

On average, one meter water equivalent corresponds to 1.1 metre in ice thickness, which suggests a further shrinking in 2006 of 1.5 actual meters and since 1980 a total reduction in thickness of ice of just over 11.5 metres.

"There are many canaries emerging in the climate change coal mine," said Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director.

"The glaciers are perhaps among those making the most noise and it is absolutely essential that everyone sits up and takes notice."

The year 2009 will be crucial, with the "litmus test" coming in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the negotiations process for a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol is scheduled to conclude, he said.

"Here governments must agree on a decisive new emissions reduction and adaptation-focused regime.

"Otherwise, and like the glaciers, our room for manoeuvre and the opportunity to act may simply melt away."

The WGMS research found that some of the most dramatic glacier shrinking has occurred in Europe with Norway's Breidalblikkbrea glacier thinning by close to 3.1 metres during 2006 compared with a thinning of 0.3 metre in the previous year.

However, some glaciers, such as Echaurren Norte in Chile, posted increases. - BuaNews

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