The world’s most visited glaciers may soon disappear

Doing World Heritage List It is a kind of gold seal accepted in the world of tourism by UNESCO, the educational, scientific and cultural organization of the United Nations. The list, which began in 1978, has more than 1,150 sites designated by their host nations and includes tourist destinations such as the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and the Central Amazon Conservation Complex in Brazil.

It also has some of the most famous and visited glaciers in the world, including those in Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. But depending the report released by the agency last weeka third of them are expected to disappear by 2050 due to climate change.

Among the glaciers that could disappear are the last remaining ones in Africa, in Kilimanjaro National Park and Mount Kenya, Mont Perdu in the Pyrenees, which covers the borders of France and Spain, and the Dolomites in Italy.

The report, published days before the start of the UN COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt, posed a challenge to the travel industry, which contributes to global carbon emissions with an estimated 8 to 11 percent footprint of all greenhouse gases. , According to the World Travel & Tourism Council or WTTC. Aviation accounts for about 17 percent of all carbon emissions from travel.

The report highlighted the critical role the travel industry plays in protecting sensitive sites and reducing carbon emissions, said James Thornton, CEO of the company. Special Tripa travel company specializing in sustainable travel and organizing trips to many of the glaciers mentioned in the report.

“It’s a big wake-up call,” he said. “The main message is that ultimately there is no vaccine against climate change for the travel industry. We need to take urgent measures to decarbonize quickly.”

Fifty glaciers are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and 18,600 glaciers have been identified in these areas. A third of the glaciers in these areas are “doomed to disappear by 2050,” according to the report.

“These are projections,” said Tales Carvalho Resende, a researcher at UNESCO in Brazil and one of the authors of the report. “We hope we’re wrong, of course, but these are projections based on hard science.”

Glaciers will disappear regardless of the “climate scenario”. But the remaining two-thirds of World Heritage glaciers could still be saved if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 Fahrenheit, according to the report.

The strip’s glaciers are losing 58 billion tons of ice a year, equivalent to the combined annual water use of France and Spain, according to UNESCO. According to the study, this melting is responsible for almost 5 percent of the observed global sea level rise.

They have led to dramatic declines in renewables prices and global political mobilization Scientists to conclude that it is the warming of this century will probably fall between two or three degrees, well below the catastrophic projections of four or six degrees that were once made. But limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is highly unlikely and even a degree or two more will bring extreme weather, environmental disruption and suffering for millions of people.

However, Mr Resende said, the UNESCO report shows that the travel industry can play a major role in preserving World Heritage sites and helping change traveller’s behaviour.

He pointed The 2019 ban banning tourists from climbing Uluru, A giant monolith in Australia that is sacred to the Anangu, an Aboriginal group that is the guardian of the rock. The ban, after decades of campaigning by the Anangu people, they are largely respected by tourists and has given park rangers time to maintain the flora and fauna of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a World Heritage Site.

Mr. Resende described how education and partnerships with local communities can force tourists to change their travel habits and learn to better protect sensitive destinations, lessons that can be applied to reduce emission-producing behaviors.

Travel companies like Expedia and Kayak can also encourage people to travel less by advertising more weeklong trips instead of three-day or weekend excursions, he said. A traveler who flies once a year for longer vacations would, in theory, have a smaller carbon footprint than a traveler who takes several shorter trips on airplanes, Mr. Resende said.

At last year’s COP conference in Glasgow, Scotland, more than 300 members of the multi-billion dollar tourism industry, including tour operators, hotel chain executives and tourism board leaders, they met to sign Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism. Since then, More than 530 agents They have signed a commitment.

The agreement called for a detailed and transparent plan to be presented within 12 months to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve “net zero” by 2050.

Travel companies have a “special obligation” to address the industry’s carbon footprint, said Jeff Roy, executive vice president. Collette ToursTravel company that organizes trips to World Heritage Sites.

“The good news is that the travel industry has come together to share resources and work collaboratively to transform tourism in a way we’ve never seen before with climate action,” he said in a statement. “There is much more to be done and quickly, as the pace of climate change is accelerating.”

Intrepid, for example, has begun busing tourists between some destinations instead of flying, a change from past practices, Mr. Thornton said.

The release of the report raised concerns that tourists would flock to the glaciers and see them before they disappeared, worsening overcrowded conditions in national parks and other delicate natural areas.

“All national parks suffer from over-visitors and have had to do drastic things over the last 10 years to address this issue,” said Director Fred Bianchi. Worcester Polytechnic Institute Glacier National Park Project center in Montana. The park was not mentioned in the UNESCO report, but scientists are afraid the park could be free of glaciers by 2030.

The pandemic led many parks to put a reservation system in place to avoid heavy foot traffic. The UNESCO report provides another incentive to keep this type of system in place, said Mr. Bianchi.

But more tourists should see the damage caused by human-caused climate change, said Luther Likes, a reservation agent. Gray Line tripwhich organizes trips to Yosemite National Park, where the two glaciers, Lyell and Maklurethey have been going back for decades.

“It’s seeing it in pictures, but seeing it in person has a different effect,” Mr. Likes said. “It’s terrible, to be honest.”

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