Climate Change in Latin America: present and future impacts

Viscidi on CGTN CGTN America

Across the Latin American region, state governments are pursuing climate adaptation plans to stymie the pronounced impacts of climate change. In an interview with CGTN’s The Heat, Lisa Viscidi discusses current impacts of climate change on migration, economies and natural resources in the region. With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) around the corner, questions of climate finance and international cooperation take on a new urgency.

COMMENTS BY LISA VISCIDI: 

Question (Q): What is your assessment of the disproportionate impact that the climate crisis is having on developing countries?

Answer (A): We’re seeing that developing countries are facing much more severe impacts of climate change, especially because many of them are closer to the equator. These are regions that are already hotter, and they already face more droughts. Droughts are also getting worse. In the Caribbean, for example, it’s the hurricane zone, so we see stronger and stronger hurricanes that cause more and more flooding. In terms of who’s responsible or who should do more, I think we’re at a crisis point now where every country needs to do as much as they can. That said, the larger emitters need to do more because that will have much more of an impact. I also think that the larger emitters definitely need to help support climate change adaptation for the smaller, poorer countries to deal with the effects of climate change.

Q: A report produced by the Climate Reality Project says that without firmer action to limit emissions, up to 140 million people in Latin America, in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as South Asia could be displaced. If you look at Latin America right now, are we already seeing large-scale displacement of people?

A: Yes, I think there definitely is migration tied to climate change—both within countries and to other countries. It’s difficult to know exactly who migrated because of climate change, because it tends to be the result of a confluence of factors. In the United States, we’re very focused right now on immigration from Central America. Especially in some of the migration from northern countries of Central America to the United States, we believe that climate change is one of the factors, and it’s going to increasingly be a factor, but there are other issues as well such as escaping violence, or reuniting with family members in the United States. I think what’s clear is that in Central America, climate change has really affected people’s livelihoods, especially in the agricultural sector. The increasing droughts and floods make it much more difficult for people to produce the agricultural yields that they had in the past with predictability. This just is another factor contributing to migration, and that’s just the case of central America. Also in South America, there are internal migrants, as well as migration among different countries resulting from the impacts of climate change. In South America, glacier melt from the Andes is really changing water resources and rainfall patterns as well as hydroelectricity availability, so all of this affects people’s livelihoods and can be a factor in their decision to move.

Q: So, when the Chilean minister talks about water stress Lisa, what’s the outlook for the country in the years ahead?

A: Chile is one of the countries of the world that faces the biggest challenge in terms of water resources. Already it’s a country that has a very dry area because the whole North is a desert. As the surface of the Earth heats up, the water evaporates more quickly. In addition to that, the glaciers are already shrinking, which has been providing a major water source. And Chile also depends a lot on water, so obviously, for the agricultural sector, irrigation is very important, but Chile also has a very big mining sector. It’s a big part of its economy, and mining activities actually use a lot of water, too, and a lot of them are happening in the northern desert where there’s the shortages. We’re kind of talking about a series of factors that are creating more water shortages, while at the same time, they have industries that need a lot of water. I think that Chile is one of the countries that’s looking further ahead on the horizon than some others, and so they have the ability to prepare. They’re already looking at desalination technologies in order to use sea water as a source of fresh water. They’re looking of course at water conservation techniques and improving those. But, I do think that this case shows how not mitigating climate change is actually more costly—as was said at the beginning—than mitigating. This is because it affects your economic activity when you have impacts of climate change, and it costs a lot to adapt to it. I think Chile is getting prepared, but it really shows how how difficult and costly this issue is.

[…]

WATCH THE INTERVIEW HERE.