Venezuela is First Nation in the Americas to Lose All Glaciers

Venezuela has lost all six of its glaciers due to global warming

Venezuela Glaciers

This April 16, 2019 photo shows an aerial view of the Humboldt glacier, in Merida, Venezuela. Throughout history, glaciers have waxed and waned numerous times. But the rapid pace of glacial retreat over the past century and a half, accelerated by human activities and the burning of fossil fuels, creates a new urgency, and opportunity, for scientists to understand how freshly exposed rock forms new soil and eventually new ecosystems. (AP Photo/Jose Manuel Romero)

We’ve been seeing the negative impacts of climate change on the environment all over the world for decades now. This is especially true in the Global South, including Latin America, where communities of color are facing the worst consequences of fossil fuels, global warming, rising temperatures, holes in our ozone layer, and landfills caused by excessive consumerism and waste. In the Andes Mountains, which cross the borders of Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, scientists and researchers have seen increased levels of ice thawing. This has affected local communities and natural ecosystems that depend on these glaciers for water, energy, and food. It became so dire that in 2011, it was announced that five of six glaciers in Venezuela had melted away in the Sierra Nevada, located about 16,000 feet above sea level. This month, scientists found that the sixth glacier, known as the Humboldt glacier or La Corona, had melted down from over 1,000 acres to just five acres. To abide by guidelines from the U.S. Geological Survey, it needs to be 25 acres in size to be considered a glacier. This has caused Venezuela to become the first nation in the world to lose all of its glaciers due to human activity and more around the world could follow, Noticias Telemundo for Axios reported.

“The speed at which these glaciers melted is evidence of climate change,” astrophysicist Alejandra Melfo told the publication. “They started to thaw a long time ago, but the speed at which they’ve vanished is from the high temperatures.”

The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world at almost 6,000 miles long and the highest outside of Asia. Most people live in the surrounding cities due the high altitude that can make breathing oxygen difficult. However, today it is home to many farmers and shepherds. In countries like Bolivia and Ecuador, the mountains are inhabited largely by Quechua and Quechua-speaking people. However, everyone who lives there, including wildlife, depends on the glaciers to survive. Not only were they a natural source of water, but they were also a crucial tool for food and energy production for local communities. Scientists now say that the loss of the glaciers will cause warmer temperatures in the area and create a cycle that prevents more ice from forming.

Interestingly enough, in 2018, scientists had guessed that the Humboldt glacier would last another decade. However, it’s become clear that human-led global warming and a warmer El Niño are radically increasing the negative effects on the earth that we’re witnessing today, including rising sea levels. And while scientists originally estimated that at least 80 percent of the world’s glaciers will melt by the year 2100, the Humboldt’s recent disappearance may cause that to happen sooner than expected. In fact, extreme weather researcher Maximiliano Herrera has hypothesized that Indonesia, Mexico, and Slovenia will become the next countries to lose their glaciers unless we reverse course.

“Although the end of the glacier was something that was going to happen due to the cycle we are experiencing, there is no doubt that global warming, a product of greenhouse gases, has of course accelerated the disappearance process,” Maximiliano Bezada, a geological researcher at the University of Minnesota, told NBC News.

In this Article

climate change Environment global warming news south america the andes trending Venezuela
More on this topic