Glaciologists urge action on climate change to halt glacier melting

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Dr James Lea, a glaciologist at the University of Liverpool and the UK’s national correspondent to the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), has signed a joint letter, published in Nature, which calls for governments to take urgent action on climate change in order to address the rate that glaciers and ice sheets are melting.

The letter, signed by all 28 national correspondents to the WGMS, was submitted to the COP25 meeting in Madrid to urge governments to acknowledge that the unprecedented nature of melting of glaciers and ice sheets is a direct result of climate change, and that the loss of these glaciers will have global implications.

The World Glacier Monitoring Service have been the international coordinators for monitoring glacier change over the past 125 years.

Dr Lea said: “This letter is an international plea from glaciologists to governments around the world to take decisive, rapid action on climate change.

“As glaciologists, in our day to day work we see the terrifying impacts that warming is having on glacier and ice sheets, that will impact people around the world through the availability of water from glacially fed rivers for drinking and farming, and global sea level change that will have impacts on the UK.

The amount of ice lost since 1960 is almost unimaginable – 9000 gigatonnes – that’s 9 000 000 000 000 tons. This would be enough ice bury the entire UK in 40 m of ice, and has raised global sea level by nearly 3 cm. One of the scariest things is that not only is this getting worse, but that this number does not even include contributions from Greenland and Antarctica, which are both losing substantial amounts of ice as well.”

Dr James Lea was awarded a prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to undertake research that aims to better understand how glaciers will change across both polar regions.

The letter `Glacier monitoring tracks progress in limiting climate change’ is published in Nature (doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03700-3).