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UN: Climate change threatens over 100 million Africans

October 19, 2021

Africa accounts for less than 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, but is projected to be severely affected by climate change. A UN report said the continent's glaciers could all melt by the 2040s.

Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya (photo) is expected to be the first mountain range to lose glaciers due to human-induced climate changeImage: W. Dolder/imageBROKER/picture alliance

A new report from the United Nations on Tuesday highlighted Africa's "disproportionate vulnerability" from food insecurity, poverty and population displacement as a result of climate change

It comes ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, as the UN warned that extreme conditions could push more people to migrate away from the continent. 

Already, an estimated 1.2 million people were displaced by storms and floods in 2020, nearly two and half times as many people who fled their homes because of conflict in the same year. 

What did the report say?

"By 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa, if adequate response measures are not put in place," said Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, commissioner for rural economy and agriculture at the African Union Commission.

According to the report, which was a joint effort with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the extremely poor are those who live on less than $1.90 (€1.63) per day.

"In sub-Saharan Africa, climate change could further lower gross domestic product by up to 3% by 2050," Sacko said in the foreword to the report.

Africa accounts for less than 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, but it has long been projected to be severely affected by climate change. Its croplands are already prone to drought, many of its major cities sit along the coast and much of its population lives in widespread poverty.

Millions of Kenyans face hunger

Africa's glaciers expected to melt

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said Africa saw temperatures continue to increase last year, "accelerating sea-level rise," as well as extreme weather events like floods, landslides and droughts, which are all indicators of climate change.

The report forecast that at current rates all three of Africa's glaciers would be gone by the 2040s.

"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," Taalas said.

Last year, Africa's land mass and waters warmed more rapidly than the world average, the report said. "If this continues, it will lead to total deglaciation by the 2040s," it added.

In particular, Mount Kenya is expected to be deglaciated a decade sooner, which would make it "one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glaciers due to human-induced climate change," the report said.

jcg/wd (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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