More than 40% of Earth’s glacial mass could disappear if humanity continues to invest in fossil fuels, a stark new projection warns.

The grim scenario would mean that more than two-thirds of the total number of glaciers would disappear by the end of the century, contributing to the steady rise in sea levels around the world.

Principal investigator David Rounce, who is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pittsburgh’s College of Engineering, led an international effort to produce the new projection.

Even in this best-case scenario, Professor Rounce’s team found that nearly 50% of glaciers would disappear, accounting for more than 25% of total glacier mass, by 2100.

A previous study warned that the Earth is already intended for 1.5 C warming.

While most of the glaciers lost according to Professor Rounce’s projections are small by global standards, measuring less than a square kilometer, the disappearance of so many of them would add up.

The catastrophic loss of glaciers is already being felt around the world.

Last year, Swiss glaciers have halved in less than a century – and the oldest glacier in the country had to be covered with special white blankets to prevent it from melting.

The thaw was so intense that a Sky News team was able to witness a plane sinking dating back to 1968, who reappeared without warning in the Swiss Alps when the ice that hid him began to melt.

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Melting Swiss glaciers reveal old plane wreckage

Melting glaciers also contributed to last summer’s disastrous floods in Pakistanwhich is home to more glaciers than anywhere outside the Arctic and Antarctica.

Located in the northern Himalayas, Pakistan has some 7,000 glaciers and rising temperatures – which reached nearly 50°C (122°F) in the town of Nawabshah in 2022 – are melting them and forming lakes glaciers.

Scientists have also issued warnings about the melting of Antarctica’s so-called “doomsday glacier”, the complete collapse of which could raise sea levels by 60cm.

The impact would be so great that it would even have ‘serious consequences’ for the UK.

But Professor Rounce warned that even a complete halt in global emissions would not be reflected in the rate at which glaciers are disappearing for decades – potentially taking up to 100 years.

He describes glaciers as “extremely slow-moving rivers”, whose impact takes time to be felt.

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Major glaciers will disappear by 2050

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The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.

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