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Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania partially covered by clouds in December 2009. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Glaciers capping three of Africa's iconic mountains — Mount Kenya in Kenya, the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania — will likely disappear over the next two decades because of human-induced climate change, the World Meteorological Organization's estimated in a new report Tuesday.

Why it matters: The WMO warned that glacier loss is just one effect climate change will have on the continent, as rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, rising sea levels and more extreme weather will also likely exacerbate food insecurity, economic and political instability and population displacement.

  • It is a harsh reminder that though African countries account for less than 4% of the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions, they may face some of the most severe repercussions of climate change.
  • The report was the result of a collaboration among WMO, the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa, international and regional scientific organizations and other United Nations agencies.

The three glaciers are too small to serve as major water reservoirs for the countries, they are key tourist attractions and scientific subjects.

  • They have been decreasing in size since around 1880 because of altered sea-surface temperatures and reduced snowfall amounts and frequency.
  • The WMO estimated that they will be gone by the 2040s, with the glacier atop Mount Kenya disappearing a decade earlier than the others — possibly becoming the first mountain range to lose glaciers from climate change.

What they're saying: "During 2020, the climate indicators in Africa were characterized by continued warming temperatures, accelerating sea-level rise, extreme weather and climate events, such as floods, landslides and droughts, and associated devastating impacts," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas wrote in the foreword of the report.

  • "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," he added.

In 2020, flooding extensively affected parts of East Africa, where 285 deaths were reported in Kenya, and 155 deaths were reported in Sudan.

  • Over 1.2 million people were displaced from climate-induced disasters that year, and almost 500,000 people were forced to flee from conflicts.
  • Higher-than-normal precipitation caused flooding in the Sahel, the Rift Valley, the central Nile catchment and northeastern Africa, the Kalahari basin and the lower course of the Congo River.
  • Dry conditions struck the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea and in northwestern Africa and along the southeastern part of the continent, while drought in Madagascar triggered a humanitarian crisis.

What's next: The WMO published the report before the UN climate conference in Scotland, which starts Oct. 31.

Go deeper: Definition of success at UN Climate Summit is in flux

Go deeper

23 hours ago - Health

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday not to impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since been identified in several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new strain.

Amazon ordered to redo union vote in Alabama

Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

A U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) official on Monday called for a re-vote in a union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

Why it matters: The move could set the stage for another organizing drive at the e-commerce giant, which has, so far, fought off unionizing efforts in the U.S.

Pentagon to probe 2019 Syria strike after reports of dozens of civilian casualties

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Nov. 20. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a new investigation into a 2019 U.S. airstrike that killed around 80 people, including dozens of women and children in Syria, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The move comes after the Times reported this month that the Pentagon attempted to keep the strike and casualties under wraps, failing to investigate the decision behind it even after questions were raised internally.