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Warming melts Rwenzori glaciers

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th December 2009 03:00 AM

Ice is melting away on the world’s highest mountains. The Rwenzori in western Uganda, the Himalayas of India and the world’s highest mountain, Everest, are losing their glaciers due to global warming and the resultant climate change.

Ice is melting away on the world’s highest mountains. The Rwenzori in western Uganda, the Himalayas of India and the world’s highest mountain, Everest, are losing their glaciers due to global warming and the resultant climate change.

By Henry Mukasa

Ice is melting away on the world’s highest mountains. The Rwenzori in western Uganda, the Himalayas of India and the world’s highest mountain, Everest, are losing their glaciers due to global warming and the resultant climate change.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the oceans and the Earth’s surface air since the mid-20th century.

Global surface temperature increased by 0.18 °C (0.32 °F) during the last century. The IPCC concludes that greenhouse gases resulting from human activity such as burning fossil fuel and deforestation are largely responsible for the increase in temperature.

Natural phenomena such as solar radiation and volcanoes produced most of the warming from pre-industrial times to 1950, the IPCC explains.

The warming has had great impact on ecosystems, water sources, food security, human settlements and health. The challenge to the world and its leaders lies in how to help their nations adapt or mitigate the effects of climate change.

In November this year, scientists said the snow on Mt. Kilimanjaro will be gone within 20 years.

In 1906, Mt. Speke, one the highest peaks of Mt. Rwenzori, was covered with 217 hectares (536 acres) of ice. According to the climate change unit at the Ministry of Water and Environment, only 18.5 hectares remained by 2006.

The scientists, in their latest report based on 95 years of collecting data, stated that the rapid melting of the Rwenzori ice-cap over the past century provides dramatic evidence of global warming.

Since 1912, 85% of the glacier has disappeared and the melting appears to be rising. Twenty-six per cent of the ice has disappeared since 2000. The study, published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ of Ohio University, concludes that the primary cause of the ice loss is the increase in global temperature.

The study, based on terrestrial and satellite photographs, shows the shrinking ice contours at points between 1912 and 2007. The 12sq km (4.6 sq miles) of ice coverage in 1912 contracted to 1.9sq km by 2007, reducing from two large ice fields to a collection of smaller, isolated patches.

The writing was on the wall in April 2007. Experts warned that global warming will cause faster and wider damage than previously forecast, ranging from failing crops and hunger in Africa to extinction of several species and rising sea levels.

According to a report from Uganda’s meteorology department titled ‘Climate Change, Uganda National Adaptation Programmes of Action’, increase in temperature reduced the Rwenzori ice-cap to 40% of its 1955 area.

The loss of the Rwenzori snow resulted from an increase in the erosive power of River Semliki. The river has shifted almost one kilometre into Uganda, causing the border dispute with Congo in 2007.

British oil explorer Carl Nefdt, riding on a barge, was on August 3, 2007 shot by Congolese soldiers near oil-rich Rukwanzi Island. The soldiers said he had crossed into their territory. Uganda explained that Nefdt was carrying out a seismic survey, 2km inside Uganda. Suddenly, the tiny island, hitherto known to a few, became the centre of a bilateral dispute.

A meeting of army chiefs of both countries held in Entebbe, decided that an inter-ministerial joint verification team be established to determine the correct border-line.

Housing minister, Michael Werike, told Parliament that the river could no longer determine the border, because it had moved inside Uganda due to erosion.

Deusdedit Nkurunziza, a Makerere University expert in conflict studies, predicted four years ago that the shifting of the Semliki would cause disputes between Uganda and Congo. He observed in 2003 that the river had moved over 10 meters into Uganda in just one year.

Later studies indicated that in some places, the river had shifted by as much as one kilometer in the last 15 years, leaving a strip of Ugandan land on the Congolese side.

The problem raised the question of whether natural features, rather than geographical coordinates, should be used in defining international borders.

10 tips to fight climate change
Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world in the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is spearheading the fight against wetland encroachment and pollution by industries, which are some of the causes of climate change.

Prof. Oweyegha Afunaduula, an environmentalist, attributes climate change to the activities of the rich and powerful nations.

Below are 10 tips Ugandans can adopt in the fight against climate change:

- Plant trees
- Use energy-saving bulbs and stoves.
- Recycle waste like plastics and metals
- Use vehicles that consume unleaded fuel
- Don’t buy old vehicles and old electrical appliances
- Walk short distances instead of using vehicles
- Use biogas, solar or wind power where available
- Harvest rain water
- Don’t encroach on wetlands and protected forest reserves
- Respect nature, don’t litter

Warming melts Rwenzori glaciers

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