Kilimanjaro among major glaciers set to disappear by 2050, UN report finds

Some 50% of World Heritage glaciers could entirely disappear by 2100 if carbon emissions are not reduced

Some of the world’s most well-known glaciers, including Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Dolomites in Italy and the Yosemite and Yellowstone parks in the United States will disappear by 2050 due to global warming, whatever the temperature rise scenario, according to a report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

The agency monitors some 18,600 glaciers across 50 of its World Heritage sites and said that one-third of those are set to disappear by 2050.

While the rest can be saved by keeping the global temperature rise below degrees relative to pre-industrial levels, in a business-as-usual emissions scenario, about 50 per cent of these World Heritage glaciers could almost entirely disappear by 2100.

World Heritage glaciers as defined by Unesco represent about 10 per cent of the world’s glacier areas and include some of the world’s best-known glaciers, whose loss is highly visible as they are focal points for global tourism.


The report’s lead author Tales Carvalho told Reuters that World Heritage glaciers lose on average some 58 billion tonnes of ice every year – equivalent to the total annual volume of water used in France and Spain together – and contribute to almost 5 per cent of global observed sea-level rise.

Carvalho said that the single most important protective measure to prevent major glacier retreat worldwide would be to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

Unesco recommends that given the inevitable further shrinking of many of these glaciers in the near future, local authorities should make glaciers a focus of policy, by improving monitoring and research and by implementing disaster risk reduction measures.

“As glacier lakes fill up, they can burst and can cause catastrophic floods downstream,” Carvalho said. – Reuters