A "High Mountain Summit", convened by the World Meterological Organization (WMO), has issued a call for action to protect the earth’s glaciers, snow, permafrost and associated ecosystems that provide water for over half the world’s population.
The three-day summit in Geneva was called in order to address the effects of climate change on the cryosphere: modifications to biological diversity, retreat of mountain glaciers, flash floods and changes in runoff. The summit stressed the need to take immediate action to minimize the negative effects of climate-related disasters and to promote adaptation to prevent the loss of even more biological diversity.
In both the northern and southern hemispheres, the mountain cryosphere provides and regulates freshwater resources for around half of the world’s population, as explained by WMO in the summit concept note. Retreating ice is creating major impacts in both the mountain habitats and in downstream, and perhaps more urban, economies.
Species dependent on snow cover are migrating further and further upslope; pastures irrigated by glacial melt are drying up; and glacial lake flooding, landslides and avalanches are costing more lives and economic loss.
In advance of the summit WMO urged its United Nations sister-agencies to redouble their efforts to strengthen inter-agency collaboration to promote sustainable mountain development.
The 31 October Call for Action states that: “the high mountain regions are the home of the cryosphere, and source of global freshwater that are transmitted by rivers to much of the world. Preservation of ecosystem function and services from these regions is essential to global water, food and energy security.
“Climate change and development are creating an unprecedented crisis in our high mountain earth system that threatens the sustainability of the planet. There is great urgency to take global action now to build capacity, invest in infrastructure and make mountain and downstream communities safer and more sustainable. This action must be informed by science, local knowledge and based on transdisciplinary approaches to integrated observations and predictions.”
The summit cited that governments must play a major role in supporting adaptation activities but practical steps to foster between science, policy, governance, and local actors were proferred.
The meeting builds on the repercussions identified in UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published in September and the Call to Action will provide some guidance in this year's COP25 meeting now to be held in Madrid in early December.
WMO’s high-level dialogue aims to engage decision-makers and local actors to make the most of existing mechanisms to enhance the presence and quality of hydro-meteorological and climate services for disaster risk reduction, and better water resource management.