Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Climate Change

Climate change is of concern to UNESCO, and UNESCO programs are helping to monitor climate change and protect world heritage sites from dangers imposed by climate change.

The UNESCO Global Climate Change Monitoring Program
UNESCO's network of Biosphere Reserves is set to have a new role - monitoring global climate change. Out of the 408 biosphere reserves in 94 countries, 138 are in mountain areas. And mountains are proving to be extremely sensitive to global warming. Melting glaciers have recently unleashed deadly mudslides, rare ecosystems are threatened, and a lack of snow is crippling economies that depend on winter tourism. While the data from these sites will enable scientists to draw a more accurate picture of global climate change, those data may also help to avoid or ameliorate catastrophes when hazardous conditions develop. In a partnership with the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), the International Human Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), UNESCO is selecting biosphere reserve sites from each of the major mountainous regions of the world as the focus for this new global climate change monitoring program. And in addition to its assessment of environmental impacts, the program will also see how global change is affecting the socio-economic conditions of mountain people. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura is to announce this initiative when he addresses the Global Mountain Summit, due to open in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on October 29, the culminating event in the International Year of the Mountain.

UNESCO Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage
The report features 26 examples - including the Tower of London, Kilimanjaro National Park and the Great Barrier Reef - case studies that are representative of the dangers faced by the 830 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. "The international community now widely agrees that climate change will constitute one of the major challenges of the 21st century," says the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, in his Foreword to the publication, calling for "an integrated approach to issues of environmental preservation and sustainable development." The publication, intended to raise awareness and mobilize support for heritage preservation, is divided into five chapters that deal with glaciers, marine biodiversity, terrestrial biodiversity, archaeological sites, and historic cities and settlements. One issue identified is the melting of glaciers around the world, which is affecting the appearance of sites inscribed for their outstanding beauty and destroying the habitat of rare wildlife species such as the snow leopard, in the Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal. These changes could also have disastrous effects on human lives with flooding resulting from glacial lake outbursts threatening human settlements. The establishment of monitoring and early warning systems and the artificial draining of glacial lakes are recommended to help avoid disasters.

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