Woefully under-prepared for climate change

We do not fully understand mountains' systems and yet, we are being asked to predict these rapid changes into the future.

We cannot wait anymore, we have to start acting and the speedier we react, the better the situation will be during the latter half of this, this century. But, the negative trend in melting of mountain glaciers will anyhow continue for the coming, coming decades, coming 50 years and we could stabilise the situation if we are successful with the mitigation. But, so far, we have, have not been ambitious enough that we would reach the Paris agreement the 1.5 to 2 degrees target. We are more moving towards 3 to 5 degrees warming by the end of this century.” World Meteorological Organisation Secretary General, Petteri Taalas

The world is “woefully underprepared” to face disasters due to the consequences of climate change in the world’s high mountain regions, WMO experts warn on Monday (October 28), saying they were facing unprecedented changes.

Officials, scientists and experts are gathering in Geneva this week for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) High Mountain Summit, to gather all scientific data available, and seek solutions on cooperation for mountains which provide more than half the world’s water supplies.

With temperatures getting warmer, permafrost and glaciers, are melting, causing shifts in precipitation patterns and river levels that affect countries unevenly, making the world’s water supplies more and more unpredictable. The risk of natural hazards — floods, avalanches — is also increasing.

Switzerland is one of the most impacted countries, recording a 2 degrees warming on average, which has led to the disappearance of 500 glaciers across the country since 1850.

“The toll to communities, to human lives is, is unacceptably high”, Canada research chair in water resources and climate change and co-chair of the High Mountain Summit, John Pomeroy, said, warning that infrastructures have been built for the 19th-20th climate, which has changed since then.

Asked about his meeting with activist Greta Thunberg on the Athabasca Glacier in Canada on October 24 – which he visited as a young man – Pomeroy, said it was “like losing a home”, when he witnessed the changes.

“We do not fully understand mountains’ systems and yet, we are being asked to predict these rapid changes into the future and it is a tremendous challenge”, he said.

The other co-chair of the summit and executive director of the mountain research initiative at the university of Bern, Dr Carolina Adler, said countries need improved data, and to share it better among themselves, if they want to avoid conflict over water resources as climate change wreaks unpredictable effects on supplies.

WMO Secretary General, Petteri Taalas urges countries to be more ambitious as not enough has been done to reach the 1.5 to 2 degrees warming’s Paris agreement.


Copyright: (c) 2019 Thomson Reuters. Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

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