UNESCO finds that some iconic World Heritage glaciers will disappear by 2050.

New UNESCO data highlight the accelerated melting of glaciers in World Heritage sites, with glaciers in a third of sites set to disappear by 2050. But it is still possible to save the other two thirds, if the rise in global temperatures does not exceed 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period. This will be a major challenge for COP27.

50 UNESCO World Heritage sites are home to glaciers (A total of 18,600 glaciers have been identified in these 50 sites, covering around 66,000 km2), representing almost 10% of the Earth’s total glacierized area. They include the highest (next to Mt. Everest), the longest (in Alaska), and the last remaining glaciers in Africa, amongst others, giving a representative overview of the general situation of glaciers in the world.

But a new study by UNESCO, in partnership with IUCN, shows these glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000 due to CO2 emissions, which are warming temperatures. They are currently losing 58 billion tons of ice every year – equivalent to the combined annual water use of France and Spain– and are responsible for nearly 5% of observed global sea-level rise.

Examples of endangered glaciers by region


  • According to available data, glaciers in all World Heritage sites in Africa will very likely be gone by 2050, incl. Kilimanjaro National Park and Mount Kenya


  • Glaciers in Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (China) – #1 highest mass loss relative to 2000 (57.2%) and also the fastest melting glacier on the List
  • Glaciers in Western Tien-Shan (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan) have shrunk by 27% since 2000


  • Glaciers in Pyrenees Mont Perdu (France, Spain) – very likely to disappear by 2050
  • Glaciers in The Dolomites (Italy) – very likely to disappear by 2050

Latin America:

  • Glaciers in Los Alerces National Park (Argentina) – #2 highest mass loss relative to 2000 (45.6%)
  • Glaciers in Huascaran National Park (Peru) have shrunk by 15% since 2000

North America:

  • Glaciers in Yellowstone National Park (United States of America) – very likely to disappear by 2050
  • Glaciers in Yosemite National Park (United States of America) – very likely to disappear by 2050
  • Glaciers in Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (Canada, United States of America) have lost 26.5% of their volume in 20 years


  • Glaciers in Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand (New Zealand) have lost almost 20% of their volume since 2000

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