UN agency sees melting ice as a global threat

Published May 31, 2023
CRACKS have appeared in the Hoper glacier in Nagar district in summer 2022. —Dawn/File photo
CRACKS have appeared in the Hoper glacier in Nagar district in summer 2022. —Dawn/File photo

GENEVA: The United Nations’ weather agency announced on Tuesday it was making the cryosphere a new top priority, saying the melting of sea ice, glaciers and permafrost posed a global threat.

Member states at the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) are concerned about the impacts of melting ice on sea levels, natural disasters, ecosystems and economies.

“The cryosphere issue is a hot topic not just for the Arctic and Antarctic, but it is a global issue,” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.

WMO countries meeting in Geneva called for increased funding for more coordinated observations and predictions, and better data exchange, research and services.

Greenhouse gas concentrations are at record levels, says WMO chief

Nations far from the polar regions, such as in the Caribbean and Africa, voiced concerns that changes in the cryosphere would affect the whole planet.

“What happens in polar regions and high mountain regions doesn’t stay in those regions,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters.

“More than a billion people rely on water from snow and glaciers melt which is carried by the major rivers of the world. When those glaciers retreat… you need to think what’s going to happen to the water security of those people.”

Besides implementing the 2015 Paris climate accords and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the WMO said better monitoring was needed to track the scale and speed of change. “You cannot manage what you’re not measuring,” said Nullis. “And we really need to think hard about water resource management.”

Permafrost ‘sleeping giant’

The melting of glaciers and the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets account for about 50 per cent of sea level rise, which is accelerating. This will have growing impacts on small island developing states and densely-populated coastal areas, says the WMO.

The Greenland Ice Sheet ended with a negative total mass balance for the 26th year in a row.

Sea ice in Antarctica dropped to 1.92 million square kilometres in February — the lowest level on record and almost one million square kilometres below the 1991-2020 mean.

Meanwhile, the Arctic permafrost is considered a “sleeping giant” of greenhouse gases, said Nullis, as it stores twice as much carbon as is in the atmosphere today.

The world’s top meteorologists are meeting in Geneva for the WMO’s congress, the quadrennial meeting of member states that sets the UN agency’s direction and priorities for the next four years.

The congress approved a new Global Greenhouse Gas Watch monitoring initiative to fill critical information gaps and provide an integrated framework for space and surface-based observations.

“Greenhouse gas concentrations are at record levels — in fact, higher than at any time over the last 800,000 years,” said Taalas.

Member states are also discussing plans to make sure that every country is covered by advance early warning systems for meteorological disasters within five years.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Anti-smuggling drive
Updated 04 Oct, 2023

Anti-smuggling drive

Smuggling is eating into the economy, weakening it and imposing enormous costs on the manufacturing industry, jobs and public well-being.
Deadly trade
04 Oct, 2023

Deadly trade

PAKISTAN may never have witnessed a character as notorious and slippery in the illegal organ trade as Fawad Mumtaz. ...
Caucasus conflict
04 Oct, 2023

Caucasus conflict

AFTER more than three decades of stalemate, the bloody conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh may be headed for a conclusion....
Relying on debt
Updated 03 Oct, 2023

Relying on debt

Sadly, the ruling military and civil elite haven’t grasped the seriousness of the economic crises.
Palestine abandoned
03 Oct, 2023

Palestine abandoned

IT appears to be only a matter of time before a normalisation deal is announced between Saudi Arabia and Israel....
Killjoys in Swat
03 Oct, 2023

Killjoys in Swat

IN yet another blow to women’s rights in Pakistan, a group of young, spirited girls seeking to participate in a...