The World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a kind of gold standard in the tourist industry. The list, which started in 1978, comprises more than 1,150 sites nominated by their home governments, such as the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Central Amazon Conservation Complex.
It also has some of the most renowned and frequently seen glaciers in the world, including those in Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. According to a research published by the agency last week, however, a third of them are likely to vanish by 2050 as a result of climate change.
Among the glaciers that are expected to vanish are the last ones in Africa, in Kilimanjaro National Park and on Mount Kenya, as well as those in the Pyrenees’ Mont Perdu and the Dolomites of Italy.
The report, released days before the COP27 climate change conference is scheduled to begin in Egypt, posed a challenge to the travel industry, which is a major contributor to global carbon emissions, with an estimated footprint of 8 to 11 percent of total greenhouse gases, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Aviation accounts for approximately 17 percent of total travel carbon emissions.
The research was a sobering reminder of the crucial role the travel sector plays in maintaining vulnerable places and decreasing carbon emissions, according to James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Travel, a sustainable travel firm that arranges trips to a number of the glaciers included in the report.
“This is definitely a wake-up call,” he remarked. “The essential point is that ultimately there is no climate change vaccine for the tourism sector,” We must act immediately to reduce carbon emissions.”
There have been discovered 18,600 glaciers in fifty of the UNESCO World Heritage sites that include glaciers. According to the assessment, one-third of the glaciers in these locations are “doomed to vanish by 2050.”
He said that the glaciers would go regardless of “climate predictions.” According to the research, the remaining two-thirds of glaciers in World Heritage sites might be protected if global warming is reduced to 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to UNESCO, the glaciers on the list lose 58 billion tonnes of ice year, which is comparable to the annual water consumption of France and Spain combined. According to the research, the melting is responsible for approximately 5 percent of the observed worldwide sea-level increase.
Huge improvements in the cost of renewable energy sources and a worldwide political mobilisation have led experts to predict that this century’s warming would likely be between two and three degrees, significantly less than the once-catastrophic forecasts of four to six degrees. However, keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees is exceedingly improbable, and even one or two more degrees would result in more severe weather, environmental devastation, and misery for millions of people.
Mr. Resende said, however, that the UNESCO analysis demonstrates that the tourism sector can play a significant role in safeguarding World Heritage sites and influencing passenger behaviour.
He cited a 2019 restriction prohibiting visitors from climbing Uluru, a sacred Australian monolith guarded by the Anangu, an Aboriginal organisation. This has allowed park rangers to conserve the flora and fauna of the World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park’s flora and wildlife. The prohibition was the result of decades of advocacy by the Anangu people.
The report’s publication spurred fears that people might swarm to the glaciers to view them before they vanish, exacerbating overcrowding in national parks and other fragile natural regions.
Fred Bianchi, the director of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Glacier National Park project centre in Montana, said that during the last decade, all national parks have had to take dramatic measures to address the problem of excessive visitor numbers. The park was not included in the UNESCO report, but experts are concerned that by 2030 the park would be devoid of glaciers.
Many parks implemented a reservation system in response to the epidemic to reduce foot traffic. Mr. Bianchi said that the UNESCO study gives an additional reason to maintain this sort of system.
The two glaciers, Lyell and Maclure, have been melting for decades in Yosemite National Park, where Gray Line Travel conducts tours, according to Gray Line Travel booking agent Luther Likes.
Mr. Likes said, “Seeing it in images is one thing, but seeing it in person has a different effect.” “It’s very scary.”