In a call for action at the end of this week’s High Mountain Summit to tackle the global warming causing glaciers to retreat, along with snow fields, permafrost and associated ecosystems – collectively called the cryosphere – the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and partners announced they would step up commitments on the issue of water security and natural disasters linked to melting ice in mountain regions.
Changes across the world’s peaks are altering the cryosphere, and impacting the flow of freshwater, which meets the needs of more than half of humanity – they are, in effect, “water towers of the world”.
In addition, the problem of disappearing ice caps is stretching from mountainsides to urban communities downstream, as glacial melt-dependent pastures becomes parched, and avalanches, floods and other disasters snuff out lives and weaken local economies.
WMO pledged to lead the effort to stop the trend at the conclusion of the three-day summit in Geneva, to address these changes to water systems and supply.
To improve high mountain observations that could better-forecast potential disasters and prompt lifesaving action, WMO will provide leadership and guidance in an Integrated High Mountain Observation and Prediction Initiative as part of its call to action, entitled “Avoiding the Impending Crisis in Mountain Weather, Climate, Snow, Ice and Water: Pathways to a Sustainable Global Future.”
The initiative to boost climate disaster prediction and resilience is a tool that will help in “tackling the climate crisis, evaporating snow and ice, and water-related stress.”
WMO said that sustainable mountain development and ecosystem conservation should be “integral” in international development policy, and in addition, more transboundary data sharing and prediction communications will be critical in safeguarding high mountain regions.