IAEA to Coordinate Project on Climate Change Impacts on Polar and Mountain Regions

IAEA29 July 2013: Glacier experts prepared a plan for an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) project led by Chile and the Russian Federation, called the 'Impact of Climate Change on Polar and Mountainous Regions: From Assessment to Action,' to assess the effect of climate change on glacier retreat, permafrost loss and snow cover reduction, and to improve conservation and management.

The 2014-2018 inter-regional project will build on established data sets to provide data series on glacier retreat and its impact on soil and water resources at 11 monitoring stations. The €1.67 million project brings together 20 countries and institutions, including the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN University (UNU) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), to ensure uniform data collection and translation of historical and local records across cryosphere habitats.

IAEA will transfer advanced nuclear techniques for monitoring complex environmental processes to developing countries, including deploying radiation detection instruments and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The project will also contribute to the sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and consultations at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). UNEP will facilitate inputs to its Governing Council (GC), the Austrian-led Global Mountain project, as well as regional meetings in the Andes and Central Asia. The project further aims to create the potential for a 'mountain-bloc' where countries can coordinate common interests, similar to the approach of small island developing States (SIDS).

Participants at a workshop held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, from 17-20 June 2013, selected project monitoring stations based on accessibility, affected human communities, existing data sets or stations, as well as the site's importance as a resource and to weather. Participants also included sites to understand the impact of permafrost loss on increasing global warming rates.

The sites are: Bellingshausen Dome Glacier, Antarctica; Altiplano Sur, Bolivia; Castle Creek Glacier, Canada; Grey Glacier and Olguín Glacier, Torres del Paine, Chile; Mount Gongga, China; Zackenberg, Greenland, Denmark; Inylchek Glacier, Kyrgyzstan; Aldegonda, Svalbard, Norway; Cordillera Blanca, Peru; Mount Elbrus, the Russian Federation; and Fedchenko Glacier, Tajikistan. [IAEA Press Release]