Effects of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean

November 21, 2023

The increase in temperatures, the greater number and frequency of extreme weather events, long droughts, more recurrent landslides and floods, increasing coastal erosion, and ocean acidification are increasingly everyday realities for Latin American and Caribbean populations.

Effects of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean
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Although Latin America and the Caribbean only generate 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, it already suffers the worst effects of global warming. Cyclones, hurricanes, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, or loss of glaciers will generate more and more migratory movements and put the lives of millions of people in the region at risk, both in cities and in the countryside. Climate change also affects basic infrastructure, the supply of clean water, food production, and electricity generation. It puts the population's livelihoods and basic services at risk with losses and damages whose economic value can exceed 2% of annual GDP.
The data are alarming: 70% of species worldwide are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss and biological invasions; between 1990 and 2014, natural capital shrank per inhabitant by 40%; In Latin America and the Caribbean, between 1998 and 2020, climate-related events and their impacts claimed more than 312,000 lives and affected more than 277 million people.
Furthermore, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in 2022 there was an almost total loss of snow cover in the glaciers of the central Andes, which accelerated the melting; Flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in economic losses across the region; and during January, November and December 2022, South America suffered long, intense heat waves that, combined with soil drying, sparked unprecedented wildfires.
These phenomena occur with the current increase of 1.3 degrees in the planet's temperature with respect to pre-industrial levels. According to WMO projections, there is a 66% probability that between 2023 and 2027 it will exceed 1.5%. This scenario is considered by some scientists as a turning point in the fight against climate change since it shows the inability to arrive in time to have productive systems that are carbon neutral, something that will accelerate both the warming of the earth and the intensity of the effects of climate change.
The hopeful news is that Latin America and the Caribbean are one of the most decisive regions for solving the climate crisis. The abundance of its natural resources, as well as the extraordinary wealth and biodiversity of its ecosystems, position it in an exclusive place in the global fight against climate change.
The region has six of the most biodiverse countries in the world that contain 70% of the species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, plants, and insects. Additionally, it has 40% of the biodiversity and more than 25% of the world's forests, while 50% of the Caribbean's plant life is found nowhere else on the planet. Likewise, the region's coastal and marine ecosystems cover an area of ​​16 million km2 and more than 70,000 km of coastline.

Natural ecosystems are an important source of protection and adaptation to climate change, since they contribute, among others, to moderating extreme weather events, regulating the climate, and absorbing carbon emissions. In fact, it is estimated that around a third of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed over the next decade could be achieved by improving nature's ability to absorb emissions, a fact that benefits Latin America and the Caribbean.

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