A new United Nations (UN) backed report has warned that East African glaciers will disappear in the next two decades because of changes in climatic conditions.
According to a forecast from the World Meteorological Organisation and other agencies released ahead of the UN climate conference in Scotland, at the current rates all glaciers on Mt Kenya, Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro and Uganda’s Rwenzoris would be gone by the 2040s.
Only three mountains in Africa are covered by glaciers: the Mount Kenya massif, the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, and the continent’s highest Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Despite the fact that the glaciers are too small to act as significant water reservoirs, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) underlined their touristic and scientific importance.
Mount Kenya, an extinct volcano that is a key attraction site for tourists because of its glaciers, is Africa’s second-highest peak after Kilimanjaro. According to the report, it is expected to be deglaciated a decade sooner, making it one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glacier cover due to human-induced climate change.
In the report, WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas said 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 an irreversible change to the Earth system.
A report in 2017 said that the Lewis Glacier, the largest on Mt Kenya, has decreased by 90 percent in volume since 1934, with the highest rates of ice volume loss occurring around the turn of the century.
The State of the Climate in Africa 2020 report highlights Africa’s disproportionate vulnerability but also reveals how investing in climate adaptation, early warning systems, and weather and climate services can pay off.
It said climate change contributed to mounting food insecurity, poverty and displacement in Africa last year.
Asides worsening drought which impacted agriculture, there was extensive flooding recorded in East and West Africa in 2020, the report noted, while a locust infestation of historic proportions, which began a year earlier, continued to wreak havoc.
Ahead of crucial UN climate talks in Glasgow, campaigners are calling for countries to cut carbon emissions, cancel the debts of developing countries such as Kenya, and mobilise climate finance to help countries adapt.