World Heritage Glaciers: climate sentinels

UNESCO report 2022
© Sarah Del Ben - Aster - Fondation UGA

Without a drastic and immediate reduction in greenhouse gases, about 30% of glaciers recognized as World Heritage sites will disappear by 2050 and 50% by 2100 announced the latest UNESCO and IUCN report “World Heritage glaciers: sentinels of climate change” published on November 3, 2022. A few days before the COP27, this reports highlights also the importance of international research on endangered glaciers such as the preservation of ice cores as undertaken by the Ice Memory Foundation.

UNESCO report

Glaciers provide essential resources for life on Earth on which half of Humanity depends. Major witnesses of history, their disappearance is also an irremediable loss for climate and environmental sciences. Emblematic markers of upheavals, they allow us in the short term, today, to quantify and characterize phenomena and are essential for developing effective adaptation responses. We all remember for example the collapse of Marmolada glacier this summer in Italy. Fabulous archives on borrowed time, which gradually deliver the climatic and environmental history of our planet to us, glaciers are treasures whose data is essential to preserve.

Facing this acceleration, the Ice Memory Foundation, alongside its 7 founders*, is relentlessly pursuing its mission. Endorsed by UNESCO since 2017, and after 6 drilling and conservation operations of ice cores on 3 continents, we are still learning and improving our protocols, our ways of working together, our systems, our logistics to urgently protect the data contained in the ice. We keep federating ice cores community and civil society. All these subjects were central during the 3rd International Ice Memory Workshop which brought together scientists from more than 10 countries on October 9, 2022, following the IPICS conference in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.

But the urgency is also to federate and to convince our Nations of the irremediable loss that this represents for the knowledge and for the future generations. It is urgent to convince them of the necessity to contribute to these archives.

Despite the imminent disappearance that threatens the last northern glacier of the Kilimanjaro, the Ice Memory drilling mission planned for this summer in Tanzania has been suspended. This international mission, which could not take place for administrative reasons, was full of disappointment, but also rich in lessons. It reminds us how much we must sustain our efforts, conviction and even pedagogy so that as many countries as possible are tackling these issues head-on.
The Ice Memory Foundation and its 7 founders are all extremely grateful to you for your commitment to us, day after day.

Read the UNESCO - IUCN report

Updated on  July 27, 2023