COP26 climate change summit: Disappearing glaciers are acting like the canary in a coal mine. Will world heed their warning? – Scotsman comment

12 days to COP26: One of the clearest signs of global warming has been the rapid melting and disappearance of many of the world’s glaciers.

The Briksdal glacier near Olden, Norway, covered the lake in the foreground in 1997. Today it is approximately 150 meters above it (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In total, an average of about 400 billion tones of ice have been lost from glaciers worldwide every year since 1994, according to Nasa.

In 1850, the US Glacier National Park in Montana contained about 150 glaciers. Today, there are about 25 and it is thought they could all be gone as early as 2030.

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In Europe, the “vast majority” of glaciers are retreating, according to the European Environment Agency. “Glaciers in the European Alps have lost approximately half of their volume since 1900, with clear acceleration since the 1980s,” its website says. It is estimated the volume of these glaciers could reduce by up to 89 per cent by 2100.

While for some people, this may seem little more than a curiosity, for others it poses a profound threat to their way of life.

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The Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges have a total of about 55,000 glaciers – containing more ice than anywhere outside the Arctic and Antarctic – that feed rivers like the Indus and the Ganges upon which hundreds of millions of people depend for freshwater.

A report by the World Bank published in June warned: “The loss of glaciers in the mountain ranges of South Asia will have serious consequences for communities and livelihoods across the region, both through immediate threats to water resources and, more broadly, through greater exposure to climate-induced stress.”

Glaciers are giving us a warning, acting like the canary in a coal mine. The question is, are we paying attention?

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