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Glacier melt breaks records around the world

Glacier melt; The world's glaciers melted at breakneck speed last year, a phenomenon that seems impossible to stop, the UN has warned.

By Ground report
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Glacier melt breaks records around the world

The world's glaciers melted at breakneck speed last year, a phenomenon that seems impossible to stop, the UN has warned.

The past eight years have been the hottest ever recorded, while concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide reached new records, the World Meteorological Organization recalled.

“Antarctic sea ice has fallen to its lowest level and the melting of some European glaciers has literally broken records,” the WMO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, warned in its annual climate report.

The sea level also reached maximums, with an average rise of 4.62 millimetres per year between 2013 and 2022, double that between 1993 and 2002.

Droughts, floods and heat waves affect large areas of the world and the costs associated with them are increasing.

Record temperatures were also recorded in the oceans, where around 90% of the heat trapped on Earth by greenhouse gases ends up.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to limit global warming to well below 2ºC, preferably 1.5ºC, compared to 1850-1900 levels.

According to the WMO report, the global average temperature in 2022 was 1.15ºC above the 1850-1900 average.

In the last eight years, global average temperatures reached records, despite cooling caused by the La Niña weather phenomenon three years in a row.

Greenhouse gas concentrations reached new global highs in 2021 and continued to rise in 2022.

A losing game for the glaciers

The glaciers that the researchers use as a reference lost an average of more than 1.3 meters of thickness between October 2021 and October 2022, a much greater loss than the average of the last ten years.

Since 1970 the glaciers have lost about 30 meters of thickness.

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

Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the WMO, stated that for glaciers the game is already lost. "The concentration of C02 is already very high and sea level rise is likely to continue for thousands of years ," he explained.

On the other hand, in the Swiss Alps, last summer 6.2% of the glacier mass was lost, the highest amount since there are records.

According to Taalas, this situation is serious and he explained that the disappearance of the glaciers would limit the supply of fresh water for humans and agriculture and would also harm transport links, if the rivers become less navigable.

“This is going to pose a huge risk for the future, as you can't stop the melting unless we create a way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere,” Taalas said.

Glimmers of hope

"This negative trend could continue until the 2060s, regardless of our success in mitigating climate change," the WMO Secretary-General added at a press conference.

Despite the bad news, Taalas also stated that there is cause for optimism.

Precisely, the means to fight climate change are becoming more affordable, since green energy is cheaper than fossil fuels and the world is developing better mitigation methods.

The planet is no longer heading towards a warming of between 3 and 5ºC, as predicted in 2014, but towards a warming of between 2.5 and 3ºC, he said.

"In the best of cases, we could still reach a warming of 1.5ºC, which would be the best for the well-being of humanity, the biosphere and the world economy," said the WMO Secretary General.

Taalas noted that 32 countries have reduced their emissions and their economies continue to grow. “There is no longer an automatic link between economic growth and increased emissions,” he explained.

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