“Every tenth of a degree counts”
The One Planet Polar Summit – hosted by the French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris from 8-10 November 2023 – brought together representatives from science, business, civil society, and politics from more than 40 glacier and polar countries. The aim of the summit was to share the latest findings in cryosphere and glacier research and to close the gap between science and politics in view of the climate crisis.
I attended the summit as Director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service. In my opening intervention, I reported about record-breaking glacier melt, emphasized the importance of systematic and long-term observations, and called for immediate and tangible actions to halt further human-induced climate change.
The representatives from the research community stressed that “every tenth of a degree Celsius counts”, that “every kilogram of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere melts additional 15 kg of glacier ice”, and that “every centimetre of further sea-level rise threatens additional 2 to 3 million people by annual floods”.
The statements from government leaders showed that politics has understood the problem and knows what needs to be done. The message about specific actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was less clear and will require a continuation of the dialog between science and politics.
The summit declaration pledged support for a United Nations Decade on Polar and Glacier Sciences. This would commence in 2025 – which is the International Year of Glaciers’ Preservation – and feed into the Fifth International Polar Year in 2032-33. It would involve WMO and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and partner organizations like the International Science Council and Antarctic Treaty System organizations.
Michael Zemp, Director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service