The first global summit devoted to the preservation of glaciers and poles, which took place in Paris this week, has shed light on Africa’s little-known glaciers – which the UN warns will be lost to global warming.
Experts and political leaders meeting at the One Planet – Polar Summit launched an appeal for urgent action to address the collapse of “all frozen surfaces on a planetary scale”.
Among the world’s most vulnerable spots are African glaciers. The continent still has around 30 glaciers in four countries: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.
They are among some 3,000 tropical glaciers distributed along the equator at a height of at least 5,000 meters, where it is very cold.
Protecting the world’s icy regions is crucial for climate regulation and preserving biodiversity, organisers at the Elysée said – adding that accelerating melt would have “absolutely major impacts” such as the submersion of coastal communities and loss of access to drinking water.
At the initiative of @EmmanuelMacron, 🇫🇷 will host from November 8 to 10 the first international summit dedicated to glaciers and poles.Protecting them is crucial for #climate regulation and the preservation of #biodiversity.#OnePlanetPolarSummit @MinColonna @oneplanetsummit pic.twitter.com/SGsJuodVl5— France Diplomacy 🇫🇷🇪🇺 (@francediplo_EN) November 2, 2023
“The lack of vegetation dries out the mountain and the glaciers receive less and less precipitation because of this.”
Increased rains instead of snow over glaciers was another factor.
A report from Unesco shows that glaciers across the globe would be unavoidably lost by 2050 due to climate change. Most would disappear in less than 20 years; others in just a decade.
Mount Kilimanjaro’s last glaciers will vanish as will glaciers in the Alps and Yosemite National Park in the US, and they will melt regardless of the world’s actions to combat climate change, experts said.
Africa’s rare glaciers on Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt, Kenya & Mt, Rwenzori will disappear by the 2040s because of climate change. Between 2014 and 2020, Furtwängler, Mt Kilimanjaro’s largest glacier, has shrunk 70%. Since 1906, more than 80% of Rwenzoris’ ice has melted… pic.twitter.com/rxeryP6gdO— Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3) September 5, 2023
A UN report in October warned about the irreversible impacts of climate changes on melting glaciers.
It identified six thresholds called “risk tipping points” – the moments at which natural systems, including those governing our food and water supples, and technological systems are either destroyed or permanently altered.
One tipping point was glacier melt. Mountain glaciers that store vast amounts of freshwater are disappearing twice as fast as they have over the past two decades.
Meltwater from mountain glaciers is a vital water source. Once glaciers reach “peak water”, when they provide the maximum amount of water run-off, the supply will slowly decline.
This threshold has already been passed in many glaciers around the world.