Alpine glaciers shrank nearly 20 per cent over the past two decades

The drop in the amount of ice is equivalent to 22 cubic km, and the largest decline was seen in Switzerland.
The drop in the amount of ice is equivalent to 22 cubic km, and the largest decline was seen in Switzerland.PHOTO: REUTERS

ZURICH (BLOOMBERG) - The amount of ice in the Alps has shrunk 17 per cent since the turn of the century, highlighting the severity of climate change as countries grapple with how to slow global warming while also tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

The drop is equivalent to 22 cubic km, and the largest decline was seen in Switzerland, the German Aerospace Centre said. That's based on the work of researchers from the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg who used satellite data.

The melting is already taking place in higher regions and "the trend is continuing", they said.

One example cited was the Great Aletsch Glacier, a Unesco World Heritage Site and the largest ice field in the Alps. It shrank by 5m or more a year, the study showed.

Climate change ranks high on the agenda of the European Union, which hopes to make the continent the world's first climate-neutral one by the middle of the century. A failure to act could have grave social implications.

Hotter temperatures by 2100 could slash global economic output by more than 20 per cent, according to Oxford Economics, and the way the impact will be distributed threatens to turn climate change into an enormous driver of worldwide inequality.