As world talks climate, US city fights flooding, sea rise

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Charleston, SC acts on climate change
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As world talks climate, US city fights flooding, sea rise
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, brackish sea water washes over the center line of a street in Charleston, S.C. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that nuisance flooding - that is flooding from ordinary high tides exacerbated by sea level rise and accompanying land subsidence - has increased 400 percent in Charleston since 1960. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, a pedestrian walks past two barriers in place to stop vehicles from driving through the flooded streets of City Market in Charleston, S.C. Heavy thunderstorms can leave intersections impassable like the streets flooded near Charlestonâs City Market area, a popular tourist haunt. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, brackish sea water invades a low income housing development forcing road closures in Charleston, S.C. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that nuisance flooding - that is flooding from ordinary high tides exacerbated by sea level rise and accompanying land subsidence - has increased 400 percent in Charleston since 1960. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, visitors seek refuge by sitting on the tables of Charleston's City Market during a heavy rainfall in Charleston, S.C. Like most things Charleston, understanding the problem is to understand the cityâs past. Over the years, the peninsula that juts out toward the Atlantic Ocean has largely expanded by filling in creeks and marshes, leaving the streets susceptible to flooding because the water has nowhere else to go. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, Carissa Mines walks through brackish sea water that floods a low lying area in Charleston, S.C. In a place where the slow-moving catastrophe of climate change has come to have daily consequences, historic Charleston is making the kind of commitment few other U.S. East Coast communities have: About $250 million has been spent to dig deep underground tunnels and build pump stations to send the water back into the ocean. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, workers weld part of the massive stormwater system, in Charleston, S.C. In a place where the slow-moving catastrophe of climate change has come to have daily consequences, historic Charleston is making the kind of commitment few other U.S. East Coast communities have: About $250 million has been spent to dig deep underground tunnels and build pump stations to send the water back into the ocean. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo photo, a motorist drives through the brackish sea water that seeps low lying areas in Charleston, S.C. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that nuisance flooding - that is flooding from ordinary high tides exacerbated by sea level rise and accompanying land subsidence - has increased 400 percent in Charleston since 1960. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, Jerry Young, an operator with Crowder Construction, carries sandbags to the construction site of a massive stormwater system, in Charleston, S.C. Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., who has served as mayor longer than anyone in Charlestonâs 345-year-history, knows the quarter of a billion dollars being spent isnât all that is needed to protect the city. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, workers weld part of the massive stormwater system near Rutledge Avenue in Charleston, S.C. Charleston has been spending millions and digging deep to deal with flooding that for centuries has plagued a city that is flat, is on the ocean and which, over the years has been built out with paved streets and surfaces that prevent storm water from soaking into the ground. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Oct. 1, 2015, photo, a worker welds and grinds part of the massive stormwater system near Rutledge Aveune in Charleston, S.C. Exacerbated by climate change, the city is making the kind of commitment few other U.S. East Coast communities have: About $250 million has been spent to dig deep underground tunnels and build pump stations to send the water back into the ocean. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
In this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 photo, drivers along Rutledge Avenue face lengthy road closures due to the massive stormwater system in Charleston, S.C. Exacerbated by climate change, the city is making the kind of commitment few other U.S. East Coast communities have: About $250 million has been spent to dig deep underground tunnels and build pump stations to send the water back into the ocean. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — About 175 years ago, a Charleston mayor offered a $100 gold medal to anyone who could stop the floods in the small coastal city.

That medal was never awarded, the flooding was never solved, and now it's much worse. Because of urban development and rising sea levels, the slow-moving catastrophe of climate change has near-daily consequences in the historic city.

SEE ALSO: December warmth sends temperatures up to 30 degrees above average

"Charleston is essentially ground zero for some of the more severe changes we can anticipate," said Hamilton Davis, the energy and climate director for the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League.

In response, the city is engineering a fix with tunnels and pump stations that costs about $250 million — more than one-and-a-half times its annual budget. It's a commitment few other communities on America's East Coast have made.

Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., a Democrat winding up 40 years as the city's chief executive in the Republican-led state, said the $80 million in drainage work already completed prevented even more extensive flooding in October, when a so-called 1,000-year-storm dumped 16 inches of rain, shuttering Charleston and much of South Carolina for three days.

"The damage would have been far more severe," Riley said. "I think it's proof that these very costly and major construction projects are extremely helpful."

Charleston occupies the end of a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers - two estuaries that, as locals like to say, meet to form the Atlantic Ocean. The city founded in 1670 has expanded ever since, filling in creeks and marshes that once drained water.

Scenes from the Global Climate March last month:

31 PHOTOS
Global Climate March 2016
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As world talks climate, US city fights flooding, sea rise
A participant holds a sign reading 'There is no Planet B' during the 'Global Climate March' organised by environmental NGOs on November 29, 2015 in Berlin on the eve of the official opening of a 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Protesters march down Piccadilly during the London Climate March as part of march events around the globe on the same day on November 29, 2015 in London, England. On the eve of the UN Climate Summit in Paris, people across the world are taking to the streets to call for a climate agreement which will deliver a 100% renewable energy future. The London march has been billed as the biggest out of all the 2,200 due to take place around the world. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Protesters march down Piccadilly during the London Climate March as part of march events around the globe on the same day on November 29, 2015 in London, England. On the eve of the UN Climate Summit in Paris, people across the world are taking to the streets to call for a climate agreement which will deliver a 100% renewable energy future. The London march has been billed as the biggest out of all the 2,200 due to take place around the world. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
People hold hands to form a human chain during a gathering called by ecologist organisations, including 'Altenatiba', in Marseille, southern France, on November 29, 2015 protesting against global warming a day ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) held in Paris. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP / BERTRAND LANGLOIS (Photo credit should read BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold hands to form a human chain during a gathering called by ecologist organisations, including 'Altenatiba', in Marseille, southern France, on November 29, 2015 protesting against global warming a day ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) held in Paris. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP / BERTRAND LANGLOIS (Photo credit should read BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images)
People march with Tibetan national flags and placards to highlight environmental issues in Tibet during a rally calling for action on climate change on November 29, 2015 in Rome a day before the launch of the COP21 conference in Paris. Some 150 leaders including US President Barack Obama, China's Xi Jinping, India's Narendra Modi and Russia's Vladimir Putin will attend the start of the UN conference Monday, tasked with reaching the first truly universal climate pact. The goal is to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), perhaps less, over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by curbing fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI / AFP / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors carry signs reading 'Democracy do not wear it if does not serve us' and 'Politics pisses on us from above, the media says that it is raining' during a rally against global warming on November 29, 2015 in Paris, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. French police fired teargas November 29 to disperse climate change activists in Paris who threw objects at them during a demonstration ahead of key UN talks, AFP reporters said. AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators clash with riot police during a rally against global warming on November 29, 2015 in Paris, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. French police fired teargas November 29 to disperse climate change activists in Paris who threw objects at them during a demonstration ahead of key UN talks, AFP reporters said. AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Climate change demonstrators march to demand curbs to carbon pollution in London on November 29, 2015 on the eve of the climate summit in Paris. Oscar-winner Emma Thompson called on world leaders to grab the 'historic' opportunity to reach a deal on tackling climate change as she joined tens of thousands of environmental protesters in London today. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL / AFP / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Climate change demonstrators march to demand curbs to carbon pollution in London on November 29, 2015 on the eve of the climate summit in Paris. Oscar-winner Emma Thompson called on world leaders to grab the 'historic' opportunity to reach a deal on tackling climate change as she joined tens of thousands of environmental protesters in London today. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL / AFP / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Protesters march down Piccadilly during the London Climate March as part of march events around the globe on the same day on November 29, 2015 in London, England. On the eve of the UN Climate Summit in Paris, people across the world are taking to the streets to call for a climate agreement which will deliver a 100% renewable energy future. The London march has been billed as the biggest out of all the 2,200 due to take place around the world. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Demonstrators lay on the ground in front of riot police during a rally against global warming on November 29, 2015 in Paris, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. French police fired teargas November 29 to disperse climate change activists in Paris who threw objects at them during a demonstration ahead of key UN talks, AFP reporters said. AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET / AFP / JOEL SAGET (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People rally in Bordeaux on November 29, 2015, to protest against global warming a day ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) held in Paris. The placard reads 'Climatic Justice'. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP / NICOLAS TUCAT (Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Protesters march down Piccadilly during the London Climate March as part of march events around the globe on the same day on November 29, 2015 in London, England. On the eve of the UN Climate Summit in Paris, people across the world are taking to the streets to call for a climate agreement which will deliver a 100% renewable energy future. The London march has been billed as the biggest out of all the 2,200 due to take place around the world. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Climate change demonstrators march to demand curbs to carbon pollution in London on November 29, 2015 on the eve of the climate summit in Paris. Oscar-winner Emma Thompson called on world leaders to grab the 'historic' opportunity to reach a deal on tackling climate change as she joined tens of thousands of environmental protesters in London today. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL / AFP / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman rides a bicycle with a placard reading 'Climate for Peace' (L) as people hold hands to form a human chain, during a gathering called by ecologist organisation 'Altenatiba' in Lyon, central-eastern France, on November 29, 2015, protesting against global warming a day ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) held in Paris. AFP PHOTO / ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP / ROMAIN LAFABREGUE (Photo credit should read ROMAIN LAFABREGUE/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator films as protestors clash with riot police during a rally against global warming on November 29, 2015 in Paris, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. French riot police used teargas to contain on November 29 in Paris some hundred protestors, many masked and others threw projectiles, according to journalist from AFP. AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold hands to form a human chain during a gathering called by ecologist organisation 'Altenatiba' in Lyon, central-eastern France, on November 29, 2015, protesting against global warming a day ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) held in Paris. AFP PHOTO / ROMAIN LAFABREGUE. / AFP / ROMAIN LAFABREGUE (Photo credit should read ROMAIN LAFABREGUE/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Dame Vivienne Westwood and guests attend The People's March for Climate, Justice and Jobs ahead of COP21 on November 29, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Protestors clash with riot police during a rally against global warming on November 29, 2015 in Paris, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. French riot police used teargas to contain on November 29 in Paris some hundred protestors, many masked and others threw projectiles, according to journalist from AFP. AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET / AFP / JOEL SAGET (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Emma Thompson (C) and Dame Vivienne Westwood (2R) attend The People's March for Climate, Justice and Jobs ahead of COP21 on November 29, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Participants hold placards against the climate change during the 'Global Climate March' on November 29, 2015 in Madrid, called by environmental NGOs on the eve of the official opening of an 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris. About 10,000 people, many holding green balloons, marched through Madrid today to urge some 150 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, China's Xi Jinping, India's Narendra Modi and Russia's Vladimir Putin to take ambitious action to tackle climate change at crucial talks during the UN conference to start tomorrow in Paris. AFP PHOTO / GERARD JULIEN / AFP / GERARD JULIEN (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants wearing a plant on their head hold a sign reading 'let's not disturb them growing, they help us breath' during the 'Global Climate March' organised by environmental NGOs on November 29, 2015 in Berlin on the eve of the official opening of a 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
A masked demonstrator carries a sign reading 'Monsanto: This nightmare wants to sell our dreams' during a rally against global warming on November 29, 2015 in Paris, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
A protestor dressed in reference to Star Wars stands before a banner reading 'Defend the climate and democracy, you must' during a rally against global warming on November 29, 2015 in Paris, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET / AFP / JOEL SAGET (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants hold flags and a balloon reading 'Save the climate, stop coal' during the 'Global Climate March' organised by environmental NGOs on November 29, 2015 in Berlin on the eve of the official opening of a 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Protesters dressed as tigers on Park Lane during the London Climate March as part of march events around the globe on the same day on November 29, 2015 in London, England. On the eve of the UN Climate Summit in Paris, people across the world are taking to the streets to call for a climate agreement which will deliver a 100% renewable energy future. The London march has been billed as the biggest out of all the 2,200 due to take place around the world. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
This photo taken on November 29, 2015 in Paris shows a large-scale marionnette behind a sign reading 'You are not a marionnette' during a rally against global warming, a day ahead of the start of UN conference on climate change COP21. AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET / AFP / JOEL SAGET (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants hold balloons reading 'Save the climate, stop coal' during the 'Global Climate March' organised by environmental NGOs on November 29, 2015 in Berlin on the eve of the official opening of a 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants hold a banner reading 'Save the earth's climate' while taking part in a demonstration organised by environmental NGOs on November 29, 2015 in Frankfurt am Main, central Germany on the eve of the official opening of a 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris. AFP PHOTO / DPA / FRANK RUMPENHORST GERMANY OUT / AFP / DPA / FRANK RUMPENHORST (Photo credit should read FRANK RUMPENHORST/AFP/Getty Images)
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Rainstorms rendered many streets unpassable at least six times this year. Even on sunny days, high tides can flood low-lying areas — it happens about 23 days a year now, roughly four times as often as it did 50 years ago. On stormy days, runoff cascades through the narrow streets, forcing locals and tourists to wade through deep pools. Savvy residents sometimes use kayaks or rubber boats to get around.

"When you are late for work or you can't drop your kids off at school because there is flooding, you are more motivated to solve that problem," Davis said. "It makes it more real for people."

Some climate-change projections forecast waters rising by two feet and inundating 40 square blocks in Charleston by 2070.

"There are three basic approaches to sea level rise," said Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a senior analyst for the Climate & Energy Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "You can defend against the water with walls to keep it out. You accommodate the water by living with it and elevating buildings and creating channels. Or you retreat."

Charleston, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, is not known for retreating.

Following a master plan engineers drew up in the 1980s, $80 million of the work is already completed. Deep shafts have been sunk into the grayish marl — a crumbly sediment of silt, clay and the remnants of sea shells that buildings rest on. Huge equipment is boring miles of horizontal tunnels up to 12 feet in diameter, connecting pump stations that send floodwater into the rivers.

The drainage system runs deep to avoid other underground infrastructure, including water and sewer tunnels built during the city's almost 350-year history. Work continues 150 feet below the city's historic homes and churches, trendy restaurants, the former slave market and other attractions that draw millions of visitors a year. This year, work also began along U.S. Highway 17, the main coastal route, which also routinely floods.

Riley said the cost of the work completed, under way and planned adds up to about $250 million, in a city with an operating budget of about $150 million. Property taxes and stormwater fees pay for the city's estimated $145 million share; the rest is federal and state money.

"That's a substantial capital investment for a city our size," Riley said, and cautioned that even more drainage work and perhaps walls to protect waterfront streets may be needed as water levels rise. "As each year's worth of data comes in, it gives you better guidance on what long-range sea level rise is and it's prudent to plan for intermediate steps," he said.

New York City, with an annual budget of $79 billion, has embarked on a $20 billion program to provide shore protection since Superstorm Sandy. Miami Beach, Florida, with a budget of about $300 million, has is building seawalls, raising roads and installing pumps at an estimate cost of $500 million.

Norfolk, Virginia, which annually spends $7 million on storm and sea-level rise mitigation, plans to pursue projects totaling more than $1 billion, which is roughly equal to its annual budget.

Back in 1837, Charleston Mayor R.Y. Hayne warned citizens in his annual report that a better drainage system "is essential to enable Charleston to fulfill her higher destinies." The city never awarded the proffered medal — worth about $2,500 in today's money — due to an economic panic that year, and the city has flooded, with increasing frequency, ever since.

Related: See how climate change is affecting Patagonia's icebergs:

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Global warming, climate change impacting Patagonia's massive glaciers
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As world talks climate, US city fights flooding, sea rise
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 29: Ice calves from the Northern wall of the Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, on November 29, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Certain areas of glacial ice take on a bluish hue due to light refraction. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the third largest ice field in the world. The majority of the almost 50 large glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park have been retreating during the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in ice caps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 28: Runoff cascades from the edge of Heim glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest ice field in the world, on November 28, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The majority of the almost fifty large glaciers in the park have been retreating over the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in icecaps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 27: The Perito Moreno glacier stands in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest ice field in the world, on November 27, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Certain areas of glacial ice take on a blueish hue due to light refraction. The majority of the almost fifty large glaciers in the park have been retreating over the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in icecaps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 28: Runoff cascades from the edge of Heim glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest ice field in the world, on November 28, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The majority of the almost fifty large glaciers in the park have been retreating over the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in icecaps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 27: The Perito Moreno glacier stands in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest ice field in the world, on November 27, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The majority of the almost fifty large glaciers in the park have been retreating over the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in icecaps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 29: The Perito Moreno glacier stands in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, on November 29, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Certain areas of glacial ice take on a bluish hue due to light refraction. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the third largest ice field in the world. The majority of the almost 50 large glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park have been retreating during the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in ice caps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 28: An iceberg broken off from a melting glacier floats in Lake Argentino, which holds runoff water from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest ice field in the world, on November 28, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The majority of the almost fifty large glaciers in the surrounding Los Glaciares National Park have been retreating over the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in icecaps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 29: Melting glacial ice floats in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, on November 29, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Certain areas of glacial ice take on a bluish hue due to light refraction. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the third largest ice field in the world. The majority of the almost 50 large glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park have been retreating during the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in ice caps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 28: An iceberg broken off from a melting glacier floats in Lake Argentino, which holds runoff water from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest ice field in the world, on November 28, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Certain areas of glacial ice take on a blueish hue due to light refraction. The majority of the almost fifty large glaciers in the surrounding Los Glaciares National Park have been retreating over the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in icecaps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 29: Melted glacial ice floats in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, on November 29, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Certain areas of glacial ice take on a bluish hue due to light refraction. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the third largest ice field in the world. The majority of the almost 50 large glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park have been retreating during the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in ice caps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 29: The Perito Moreno glacier stands in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, on November 29, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Certain areas of glacial ice take on a bluish hue due to light refraction. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the third largest ice field in the world. The majority of the almost 50 large glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park have been retreating during the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in ice caps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ PROVINCE, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 28: Runoff cascades from the edge of Heim glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest ice field in the world, on November 28, 2015 in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The majority of the almost fifty large glaciers in the park have been retreating over the past fifty years due to warming temperatures, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The United States Geological Survey reports that over 68 percent of the world's freshwater supplies are locked in icecaps and glaciers. The United Nations climate change conference begins November 30 in Paris. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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