The new study from the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) focused on the 46 World Heritage sites where glaciers are found, including the Great Aletsch Glacier in the Swiss Alps, Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier and Khumbu Glacier in the Himalayas.
Using a variety of data and advanced modelling, the authors “predict glacier extinction by 2100 under a high emission scenario in 21 of the 46 natural World Heritage sites where glaciers are currently found,” IUCN said in a statement.
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That “high emission scenario” refers to the status quo, where the commitments made under the 2015 Paris climate pact are not met.
Sites likely to see the most severe ice-loss are Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina and Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, which straddles the Canada–US border.
The disappearance of small glaciers in the Pyrenees – Mont Perdu World Heritage site could happen before 2040, according to IUCN projections.Even if nations deliver on the terms of the Paris agreement, eight of the 46 World Heritage sites analysed in the report will still be ice-free by the year 2100, IUCN added.
“Losing these iconic glaciers would be a tragedy and have major consequences for the availability of water resources, sea level rise and weather patterns,” Peter Shadie, director of IUCN's World Heritage Programme, said in the statement.
IUCN, widely-known for its “red list” of endangered species, has developed the first ever inventory of the 19,000 glaciers spread across 46 World Heritage sites.