Africa’s mountain glaciers are melting so quickly that they are likely to disappear within two decades, according to a new United Nations report. The loss of the life-giving water from the snowpack could threaten drought, food insecurity and displacement from their homes for over 100 million people.
“The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in East Africa, which are expected to melt completely in the near future, signals the danger of imminent and irreversible change in the Earth system,” said Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas, in the report.
The report also acknowledged that the effects of climate change on the continent are worsening faster than scientists expected. At this rate, the three remaining glacier regions of Africa on Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Kenya in Kenya and the Rwenzori Mountains, which border Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will be lost for good within 20 years, reports Marc Santora for the New York Times.
“If [warming] will lead to complete deglaciation by the 2040s, âthe report says. Mount Kenya is expected to lose its glacier even sooner, making it “one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glaciers due to man-made climate change”.
The latest joint assessment paints a bleak picture for Africa. Despite the continent’s minimal greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will further intensify heat waves and lengthen periods of drought. The announcement comes a week before the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Scotland, which begins later this month, when wealthier countries were called upon to help lower-income countries adapt to the climate crisis. The world’s 20 largest economies produce more than three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions, reports Reuter’s Tim Cocks, but those emissions affect the world’s climate. Although Africa only contributes 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the continent is one of the countries most affected by the effects of climate change.
By 2030, up to 118 million extremely low-income people will “face drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa if adequate countermeasures are not taken,” said HE Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economics and Agriculture for Africa’s Union Commission. Sacko found that climate change could reduce Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 3 percent by the end of 2050. “Not only are the physical conditions deteriorating, but the number of people affected is also increasing.”
Because Africa is warming faster than other parts of the world, Cara Anna reports for the Associated Press, and some nations are already facing climate-related disasters. That summer, severe droughts in the East African island state of Madagascar caused widespread famine and forced thousands to flee.
âFamilies suffer and people are already dying of hunger. This is not due to war or conflict, it is due to climate change, âsaid David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Program, in a statement earlier this year. “This is an area of ââthe world that did nothing to climate change, but now they are paying the highest price.”