Africa’s glaciers melting, millions of poor face drought, floods

20Oct 2021
Correspondent
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Africa’s glaciers melting, millions of poor face drought, floods

AFRICA’S rare glaciers risk disappearing in the next two decades owing to climate change, a new report warned yesterday.

This comes amid sweeping forecasts of pain for a continent with the least contribution to global warming but expected to suffer the condition’s harshest consequences.

The report, the work of the World Meteorological Organisation and various other agencies, has been released ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26.

The event is scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 and to November 12, 2021 under the presidency of the UK.

The report stands as 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.

Paradoxically, Africa’s 54 countries are responsible for less than 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The report seizes on the shrinking glaciers of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest), Mount Kenya and Uganda’s Ruwenzori Mountains, all with tops that have traditionally been permanently snow-capped and glaciated, as symbols of the rapid and widespread changes to come.

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

WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said at Tuesday’s launch of the report that massive displacement, hunger and an increase in 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.

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 per cent by 2050,” the African Union Commission’s Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko with writes in the report, adding: “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 US$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 notes.

Sacko, an Angolan national, is a leading agronomist elected as the AUC’s Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture in January 2017.

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”. The world body further notes that parts of South Sudan are already seeing the worst flooding in almost 60 years.