What Happens When the Glaciers are Gone?

I’m just back from a trip to Switzerland, where among other things, I met with Professor Dr. Martin Grosjean, executive director of the country’s NCCR Climate Management Centre.

Grosjean told me a sobering statistic. During the summer months, 90% of the water in key European rivers, like the Rhone, comes from melting glaciers. The rivers are vital for everything from hydropower and agriculture to water supplies for cities.

But the glaciers are disappearing — fast.

If the Earth warms as much as predicted by climate models, the big European glaciers could be gone in 50 years.

The rivers would dry up to a trickle, at best. The consequences could be enormous.

What's so frustrating, says Grosjean, is that, as yet, no one seems to understand how serious this would be. No one is even trying to figure out how countries could plan for such a future.

It's just one more example of the many profound changes that are expected to occur with a warming world, which will challenge our ability to cope and adapt.

Because it may be gone within decades, my wife and I made sure to visit Switzerland's Aletsch glacier, Europe's largest glacier. It's still an impressive sight....

But to Grosjean, who has measured its shrinkage, it's also a very sad sight because of how much it has diminished in size.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.