At Impact Orange Partners we sometimes write blogs about themes that concern us personally. One of these themes is about the decline of glaciers in the world. Much has been written about this decline; We often see shocking pictures of retreating glaciers over periods of 30-50 years. The most shocking thing about this glacier mass loss is that you hear it too. With continuous crackling and squeaking, you can hear these giants falling into streams of water.
Last week I did a tracking with a friend ‘around’ the Mont Blanc, the so-called Tour de Mont Blanc. A short 175km of walking, scrambling, suffering (with many altitude and descent meters), but especially enjoying a trip that takes you successively from France to Italy to Switzerland and back to France. A number of times we had to step over the moving glacier giants, which was impressive but also scary. You can hear and feel the melting of ice beneath you!
A recent article in Nature  investigates the state of all glaciers in the world; about 220,000 in total. As the basis for the research, the research team used images from NASA’s Terra satellite, which has been making orbits around the Earth every 100 minutes since 1999. The numbers don’t lie. Between 2000 and 2019, Earth’s glaciers lost an average of 267 megatons (billion tons) of ice per year. Moreover, the glaciers also appear to be melting faster and faster during this period. Among other things, this has far-reaching consequences for sea level rise. The researchers found that during this period, the melted ice caused up to 21% of the observed sea level rise; That’s about 0.74mm per year. Among the fastest melting glaciers are those in Alaska, Iceland and the Alps. And all this as a result of global warming.
Another consequence of climate change is the change of precipitation patterns. Areas that previously received enough snow and precipitation to sustain the glaciers are now facing drought and reduced precipitation. This reduces the amount of ice added to glaciers, causing them to shrink and decrease in size. It is a kind of candle that burns on two sides at the same time.
This in turn has far-reaching consequences for the environment and human society. First, glaciers are important sources of freshwater. Nearly 800 million people live near the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus. If the Himalayan glacier continues to shrink, this will have far-reaching consequences for among others India and Bangladesh in the future.
Similarly, glaciers affect the local climate; They reflect the sunlight back into space, giving them a cooling effect on their surroundings. The disappearance of this also has consequences for biodiversity. Many plants, animals and microorganisms are adapted to the cold conditions of glaciers and are threatened in their natural habitat.
We don’t want to end this blog negatively, the walking tour was simply too beautiful. Awareness that you can hear climate change again brings a sense of urgency: 1. to continue investing in renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thereby slowing global warming, 2. conduct research on glacier protection, 3. Protect forests and ecosystems (serving as carbon storages), 4. And further international cooperation in the field of climate control. But the latter may be ‘first see then believe’, rather than ‘hearing is believing’.
 Accelerated global glacier mass loss in the early twenty-first century by Romain Hugonnet et al, Nature 28 April 2021.