• March 23, 2023

Guterres warns of ‘catastrophic’ consequences of a world without glaciers

Secretary-General António Guterres told a conference side event dedicated to the issue of preserving the world’s glaciers that new data released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed global average sea levels have already risen faster since 1900, “than over any preceding century in the last 3,000 years.”

‘Erased forever’

He said that “low-lying communities and entire countries could be erased forever. We would witness mass movements of entire populations – and fierce competition for water and land.”

Furthermore, natural disasters would simply accelerate worldwide, including more floods, droughts and deadly landslides.

Glaciers have exerted extraordinary influence on humankind’s evolution, carving out the landmasses we all call home, and extending over 10 per cent of the Earth’s landmass. 

‘World’s water towers’

“The world’s water towers”, represent the largest reservoir of fresh water there is, supporting our nutrition, health, economies, and energy production, and supplying snow-melt that provides water for one in every four people on the planet.  

“But these silent giants are facing a rude awakening”, Mr. Guterres warned. “Human activity is driving our planet’s temperature to dangerous new heights”, in the form of global warming, turning glaciers, into the canary in the coalmine he said.  

Losing these giants would be a giant problem for our world”, the UN chief continued, calling for more action to sound the alarm.

A mountain glacier that is shrinking due to rising temperatures and less snowfall at the Kargil District, India.

© UNICEF/Srikanth Kolari

A mountain glacier that is shrinking due to rising temperatures and less snowfall at the Kargil District, India.

‘Act as one’

“All countries must act as one to protect people and communities alike.”

He called for more investment in climate-resilient buildings, infrastructure, and water pipelines, as well as conservation policies that safeguard water resources and ecosystems.  

He called for institutional capacities to be strengthened, and the integration of risk reduction measures that will ensure every person in the world is protected by lifesaving early warning systems against hazardous climate or weather events, by 2027 – a UN “Early Warnings for All” initiative already well underway.

Let’s stop global warming in its tracks. Let’s help all countries build more resilient futures”, Mr. Guterres declared.

“As we look ahead to the International Year for Glaciers’ Preservation in 2025, let’s act now to mobilize greater political, private and public will, to conserve our glaciers and all they give to us.

Watch below the UN chief’s speech to the opening of the Water Conference:

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