PARIS: French president Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that melting glaciers are an “unprecedented challenge for humanity” and urged world leaders to work together on halting the devastating effects of climate change. Such a united effort is desperately needed, even though the war in Ukraine and the latest Israel-Hamas war are taking away much of the international focus and hamper global unity and cooperation, Macron said.

The French leader spoke at the Paris Peace Forum, an annual event involving governments, nongovernmental groups and others seeking dialogue around global problems such as climate change, children’s exposure to online violence and threats to human rights.

The world, Macron said, is witnessing “the collapse of the cryosphere under the impact of climate change,” referring to parts of the Earth where water is in solid form, including glaciers.

“The most immediate and visible effect is the melting of the ice caps … it represents an unprecedented challenge for humanity,” Macron said.

Melting ice surfaces worldwide have an impact on biodiversity, rising sea levels and coastlines, they contribute to scarcity of drinking water, migration, greater release of CO2 and risk of a new pandemic, he added.

“All these threats are real,” Macron said and called for urgent cooperation.

“Conflicts are once again on the agenda, in the Middle East and elsewhere and this making our relations fragile, but we have to do our best to work closely together, in a peaceful way,” he added.

Heads of states, governments and diplomats from about 40 states are attending the summit in Paris, including China. Russia has not been invited, even though the country is an Arctic neighbour.

In mountains from the Alps to the Himalayas, glaciers are disappearing at alarming rates due to warming temperatures, with many predicted to disappear entirely by the end of the century, according to studies.

While human-caused climate change means the loss of glacier mass is irreversible in the short-term, scientists say drastically reducing the burning of planet-warming coal, oil and gas could minimize the melt in the future.

It’s a similarly stark picture on the Earth’s poles. The Artic is rapidly losing sea ice as global warming causes the ice to weaken and disappear. The frozen Antarctic has also seen dramatic ice sheet melt, disappearing glaciers and unusually high temperatures as the world heats up.

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