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Kenya Floods Take Lives as Climate Change Conference Continues

More than 20 people in northern and coastal Kenya have been killed by massive flooding triggered by heavy rains. The disaster is occurring as delegates from around the world attend the U.N. Climate Change conference in Kenya's capital.

In addition to those killed, about 60,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by flooding that hit the coastal town of Mombasa and the northeastern town of Garissa, particularly hard.

The Kenyan health ministry has also issued an alert for possible outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera.

The floods are being caused by three weeks of unusually heavy downpours during the October to December short rains season.

Recently, massive flooding has killed more than 40 people in neighboring Somalia and more than 60 people in Ethiopia.

Flooding and unusual weather patterns are being discussed by six-thousand delegates from around the world at the U. N. Climate Change conference, which ends this week in Nairobi.

"These kinds of extreme flooding are the kind of events that are consistent with scientific forecasts on climate change," explained Nick Nuttall, U.N. Environment Program spokesman. "Africa is an extremely vulnerable continent as it is to weather events, but climate change is making those weather events more extreme and more frequent. So the kind of flooding that you are seeing in Kenya is in line with these kinds of predictions by the best scientific minds."

Meanwhile, the Australian government says it is trying to set up an alternative arrangement to the Kyoto Protocol. Australia and the United States have refused to ratify the protocol. The United States says the treaty does not place enough responsibility on developing countries to cut pollution and its costs would harm to the U.S. economy.

The 165 countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which took effect last year, are legally committed to reducing their output of six carbon gasses believed most responsible for causing global warming.

Scientists point to carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides as being three of several gasses that, in excess, form a barrier that prevents the sun's energy from radiating back into space, thus raising the earth's temperature.

Such climate change has been linked to more frequent occurrences of drought, flooding, hurricanes, forest fires, and increases in the number of malaria cases, rising sea levels and damage to crops.