Adapting to climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean

Adapting to climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean

Adapting to climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean

For many years, scientists have been predicting the impact of climate change. In Latin America and the Caribbean, predictions range from water shortages to an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. The effects of climate change could significantly reduce the ability of ecosystems to operate properly, threatening development projects throughout the region.

A report fromthe Working Group on Climate Change and Development in the UK describes theeffects of climate change and environmental degradation in LatinAmerica and the Caribbean.These include impacts on water, livelihoods, energy, the environment, healthand migration. The report examines how to stop and reverse global warming, but alsohow to live with the amount of global warming that cannot be avoided.

The region’s climateis changing: in 2005, there were 26 tropical storms and 14 hurricanes. Theintensity of these storms is likely to increase in the future. Rainfall andsnow patterns are also changing, with increases in flooding and droughts andevidence of glacial melting. Sea levels are likely to rise, which will affectcoastal areas: 60 of Latin America’s77 largest cities are located on the coast. Furthermore, the destruction and poormanagement of natural resources increase the impacts of climate change. Thisabuse is rarley caused by poor communities, but theyhave most difficulty coping with the impact of change.

The researchshows:

  • The stress on water resources is likelyto increase. Estimates suggest that by 2025, about 70 percent of the populationof Latin Americaand Mexicowill live in regions with low water supply.
  • 30 to 40 percent of working people in LatinAmerica are farmers. Studies show decreases inthe yields of key crops including barley, maize, potatoes and soyabeans. These decreases are potentially linked to globalwarming.
  • The region is likely to experienceincreasing health problems. Diseases such as malaria and cholera are likely tospread. Reduced access to food and water will also affect people’s health.
  • The challenge of coping and adapting isgreatly increased by existing and historical neglect of women in the region.

The reportargues that humans need to design a new model for progress and development thatwill work despite changes to the climate. This model must give everyone a fairshare of natural resources. The researchers recommend that:

  • Rich countries need to exceed the targetsfor reducing greenhouse gases set by the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Understanding of the problem of climatechange is limited in developing countries. People need detailed maps thatoutline the complex impacts and risks from climate change.
  • A community-based approach to reducingthe risk of disasters should be included in all relief, reconstruction,development and poverty reduction plans.
  • Governments must increase support forsmall-scale agriculture, based on diversifying farming systems to include arange of crops suited to different climatic conditions.

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