Water Scarcity: Glaciers Sound the Alarm

Glaciers account for approximately 70% of all freshwater stored on the planet. From Latin America to the Himalayas, New Zealand and the European Alps, climate change is causing most glaciers to retreat at unprecedented rates with many experts sounding the alarm on water security.


Why glaciers are important for water security

Melting and shrinking glaciers are one of the most tangible effects of climate change on water resources. They give a visual representation that is hard to ignore and — particularly in tropical and subtropical regions — glaciers act as storage tanks for freshwater whereby they compensate for seasonal variability in the flow of mountain rivers by providing a constant and reliable input of meltwater.

Melting glaciers affect water security

In Latin America, the impacts of melting glaciers on high altitude communities living in countries such as Peru and Bolivia are well documented. “Because of their remoteness and difficult living conditions, inhabitants of mountain regions are particularly vulnerable to the degradation of natural resources,” explains Buytaert.

The future of glaciers

Earth’s great expanses of water and ice, which are fundamental components of the planetary ecosystem, have already registered huge and irreversible changes. According to the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), global warming is responsible for the widespread shrinking of the world’s cryosphere, leading to significant reductions in the ice mass of both ice sheets and glaciers.

Sustainable development needs water security

Melting glaciers are just one of the problems affecting water security. In fact, ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is one of the building blocks of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and enshrined in SDG 6.

Euro-Mediterranean Center on #ClimateChange: integrated, multi-disciplinary and frontier research on climate science and policy.