A warning that Africa’s last glaciers will soon disappear

The last three mountain glaciers in Africa are receding at such a rapid rate that they could disappear within two decades, a symbol of the wider devastation caused by climate change on the continent, according to a new UN report.

While African countries contribute less than 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the report of the World Meteorological Organization and other agencies highlighted the disproportionate impact climate change is having on the continent’s 1.3 billion people as floods worsen, droughts last longer and temperatures continue to rise.

“The rapid shrinkage of the last remaining glaciers in East Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of an imminent and irreversible change in the earth system,” said the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization , Petteri Taalas, in a press release. a foreword to the report.

The climate in Africa in 2020 was characterized by “continuous warming of temperatures, accelerating sea level rise, extreme weather and climatic events, such as floods, landslides and droughts, and associated devastating impacts, ”he added in the report presented ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Scotland from October 31st.

The loss of glaciers – icy places above the humid tropics that have long been objects of wonder and fascination – is a physical manifestation of Earth’s climate change. Found on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Kenya in Kenya, and the Rwenzori Mountains bordering Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, glaciers have been receding for years.

The report paints a chilling picture of both the impacts to date and the consequences to come if urgent action is not taken. By 2030, up to 118 million people living on less than $ 1.90 a day “will be at risk of drought, flooding and extreme heat in Africa if adequate response measures are not put in place. “, did he declare.

He warned that families’ daily struggle to find food would become more difficult as the effects of protracted conflicts, political instability, climate variability, pest outbreaks and economic crises – exacerbated by the pandemic. coronavirus – were to converge.

Like David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Program, said recently: “This is a region of the world that has contributed nothing to climate change, but now they are paying the highest price.”

For example, in Madagascar, an island nation in East Africa, the United Nations has already warned that the world is witnessing its first “Climatic famine”. Thousands of people are currently living catastrophic food shortages and more than half a million people are on the brink of famine, according to the world organization. About 800,000 more are at risk of joining them.

Around the world, climate-related disasters now force more than twice as many people from their homes as war and armed conflict. In the first six months of 2020, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, a non-government data service, recorded 14.6 million new trips in 127 countries and territories. Conflict and violence accounted for an estimated 4.8 million, and disasters caused 9.8 million.

East Africa, according to the report, accounted for about 12 percent of these displacements – conflicts forcing some 500,000 people from their homes and climate disasters affecting an additional 1.2 million.

The melting of African glaciers has echoed similar trends in icy peaks in places as far apart as Peru and Tibet, and it provides one of the clearest signs that a global warming trend in the 1950s. recent years has surpassed the typical climate change.

As the ice melted, temperatures continued to rise.

“The 30-year warming trend for 1991-2020 was higher than for 1961-1990 in all African sub-regions and significantly higher than the trend for 1931-1960,” according to the report. “If this continues, it will lead to total deglaciation by the 2040s,” he warned.

The Mount Kenya Glacier – where snow once covered the summit, some 17,000 feet above sea level – is set to disappear a decade earlier, making it, according to the report, “one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glaciers due to man-made climate change.


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