We might be the last generation to experience the beauty of many natural glaciers.
We might be the last generation to experience the beauty of many natural glaciers. This realization has driven thousands into embarking on glacier tourism recently. Yet for how much longer those glaciers will be there is very much in doubt.
A study published in Advances in Climate Change Research suggests that warming temperatures have led to diverse changes in glacier landscapes globally. Some of them are declining in aesthetics or attractiveness while others are disappearing altogether.
In Alaska, the temperature has risen twice faster than the global average over the last 50 years. The Alps, Andes, and other top attractions are experiencing similar trends. In New Zealand, the length of the South Island Fox Glacier has decreased by 700m over the last decade. Between 1946 and 2008, the Franz Joseph Glaciers, which are located nearby, retreated by 2.44km. In the next 60 years they may lose around 40% of their length and ice covering.
The ice cap of the western slope of the African mountain Kilimanjaro will disappear by 2020 and after 2060 the mountain will be completely glacier-free. In Peru glaciers are already starting to close due to “adverse climatic conditions”, while Bolivia’s Chacaltaya glacier had already disappeared in 2009, leading to the closure of summer ski tourism.
Just a century ago, the Rwenzori National Park of Africa had 43 glaciers with an area of 7.50sqkm. Today, more than half of the glacial ice is gone and the glacier has an area of just 1.5sqkm. Even more astonishing is the fact that 70% of Canada’s glaciers may disappear by 2100, with a similar fate awaiting other glaciers around the globe.
The fast retreat and disappearance of glaciers will have a critical impact on ice and snow tourism, the accessibility of particular sites and the wellbeing of local communities, the researchers say. A glacier extinction is happening in front of our eyes and some scientists are building memorials to vanished glaciers and pondering how to artificially restore ice sheets, such as by blasting them with snow.
As people are beginning to reevaluate the true costs of climate change, the good news is that many “last chance to see” tourists may end up spreading word more about climate change and its impacts. To address glacier extinction, we will need global collaboration on an unprecedented scale in order to tackle global emissions.
Only once we acknowledge that everything on this planet is connected, can we truly start solving sustainability challenges one by one.