World

Africa's rare glaciers soon to disappear, warns new report

October 19, 2021
An elderly woman, internally displaced from her home in Abyei in Sudan, gets ready to receive her ration of emergency food aid.
An elderly woman, internally displaced from her home in Abyei in Sudan, gets ready to receive her ration of emergency food aid.

NAIROBI — Africa’s rare glaciers will disappear in the next two decades because of climate change, a new report warned Tuesday amid sweeping forecasts of pain for the continent that contributes least to global warming but will suffer from it most.

The State of the Climate in Africa 2020 report from the World Meteorological Organization and other agencies, released ahead of the UN climate conference in Scotland that starts Oct. 31, is a grim reminder that Africa’s 1.3 billion people remain “extremely vulnerable” as the continent warms more, and at a faster rate, than the global average.

And yet Africa’s 54 countries are responsible for less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General, said the climate indicators in Africa during 2020 were characterized by continued warming temperatures, accelerating sea-level rise, extreme weather, and climate events such as floods, landslides and droughts.

“The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system,” he warned.

Only three mountains in Africa are covered by glaciers: the Mount Kenya massif, the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Even though the glaciers are too small to act as significant water reservoirs, WMO underlined their touristic and scientific importance.

“Their current retreat rates are higher than the global average. If this continues, it will lead to total deglaciation by the 2040s,” the report said.

Mount Kenya is expected to be deglaciated a decade sooner, the agency added, which will make it one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glacier cover due to human-induced climate change.

Massive displacement, hunger and increasing climate shocks such droughts and flooding are in the future, and yet the lack of climate data in parts of Africa “is having a major impact” on disaster warnings for millions of people, Taalas said at Tuesday’s launch.

Estimates of the economic effects of climate change vary across the African continent, but “in sub-Saharan Africa, climate change could further lower gross domestic product by up to 3% by 2050,” Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko with the African Union Commission writes in the report. “Not only are physical conditions getting worse, but also the number of people being affected is increasing.”

By 2030, up to 118 million extremely poor people, or those living on less than $1.90 a day, “will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa if adequate response measures are not put in place,” Sacko adds.

Already, the UN has warned that the Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar is one where “famine-like conditions have been driven by climate change.” And it says parts of South Sudan are seeing the worst flooding in almost 60 years.

The authors said rapid implementation of African adaptation strategies will spark economic development, as well as more jobs as part of post-pandemic recovery. Pursuing the priorities of an African Union green recovery plan would also allow for sustainable recovery as well as effective climate action. — Agencies


October 19, 2021
70 views
HIGHLIGHTS
World
8 hours ago

Workers with HIV-AIDS continue to face stigma, discrimination: ILO

World
8 hours ago

Series of appalling deadly attacks on displaced people in DR Congo

World
8 hours ago

COVID-19: WHO’s Tedros criticizes ‘blunt’ Omicron measures

X