IPCC on Latin America: Land Drought and Coastlines Floodings are on the Menu

An image of the 2005 Amazon drought, when lack of rain caused rivers and lakes to dry up completely.

Repercussions to the Working Group II (WGII) Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, titled Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, gained strength in Latin America last week, as several gatherings took place to discuss the effects Global Warming could cause (and apparently is causing) in the region.

According to the release, "by mid-century, increases in temperature and associated decreases in soil water are projected to lead to gradual replacement of tropical forest by savanna in eastern Amazon", while "in drier areas, climate change is expected to lead to salinisation and desertification of agricultural land," causing "productivity of some important crops to decrease and livestock productivity to decline, with adverse consequences for food security".

Not only food, but also water supply is threatened. The report warns: "changes in precipitation patterns and the disappearance of glaciers are projected to significantly affect water availability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation".

The document also states that "sea-level rise is projected to cause increased risk of flooding in low-lying areas", a reality already if you check disasters like Santa Fe province flooding in Argentina.

Regarding species, the report warns that "increases in sea surface temperature due to climate change are projected to have adverse effects on Mesoamerican coral reefs, and cause shifts in the location of south-east Pacific fish stocks", and that "semi-arid vegetation will tend to be replaced by arid-land vegetation, with risk of significant biodiversity loss through species extinction in many areas of tropical Latin America".

"Latin America will be a very affected region, not just by the temperature raise and the change in rain amounts, but also because of the frequency of extreme events and sea level elevation", said to Clarin newspaper Graciela Magrin, coordinator of the Latin American chapter of the IPCC WGII Fourth Assessment Report. "Temperature has raised among 0,5 and 1°C in the region in the past century", informed Magrin to Clarin, "which has accelerated the glaciers melting, increased the annual discharge in rivers and elevated flooding frequency. In the future, many glaciers will have disappeared and there will be less water available for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation".

Therefore, the scientist pointed that "50% of the cultivated soils will suffer salinisation and desertification processes and there will be less yield in cultivations and livestock". Major rain-decrease foreseen is supposed to happen in northern Brazil, some parts of Mexico, center-south Chile and center-west Argentina.

Another aspect Magrin highlighted to BBC Mundo is the re-distribution and re-appearing of diseases: "distribution of important diseases like dengue and malaria will change, and problems like diarrhea and other infectious diseases will be intensified. Plus, the pollution derived from forestall-fires will increase respiratory diseases; and diseases like Chagas could re-emerge", she said.

Though most of the forecasts are in conditional tense, many of the problems announced -or at least similar forms of them- are already going on: in the past years the continent has already experimented massive rains in Venezuela, flooding in Argentina, droughts in the Amazon, hail storms in Bolivia and a record season of cyclones in the Caribbean, a Nicaraguan website informs. A Peruvian one quotes the United Nations Program for Environment (PNUMA) and states that Chacaltaya glacier in Bolivia has split and scientists confirm it will disappear in seven or eight years, and that glaciers such as Yanamarey in Peru, Cordillera Blanca and Santa Rosa, and the snowed-volcano in Santa Isabel, Colombia, are disappearing too.

WWF announced also in the past week that Global Warming is affecting the Caribbean waters, where the warming is endangering coral reef survival; millenary-trees woods amongst Chile and Argentina, where the warming has altered rain periods causing droughts and fires; and the Chihuahua desert in between Mexico and the United States, where fauna and flora are suffering from the flow-diminish of rivers Grande and Bravo, whose basins have come to dry before reaching the sea.

According to the WGII Contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, "some countries (in Latin America) have made efforts to adapt, particularly through conservation of key ecosystems, early warning systems, risk management in agriculture, strategies for flood drought and coastal management, and disease surveillance systems. However, the effectiveness of these efforts is outweighed by lack of basic information, observation and monitoring systems; lack of capacity building and appropriate political, institutional and technological frameworks; low income; and settlements in vulnerable areas, among others".

Hopefully this document will help bring some consciousness and initiate some action in Latin countries. In Argentina, for example, after the report came out a committee of people from different fields and professions was formed, in order to elaborate an action plan and an information campaign.

Remember the WGII Contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report concluded that "evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases", and that a summary of it will be delivered to G8 world leaders before their next meeting, in June. The third part of the report, which analyzes how to mitigate the greenhouse-gases-concentration effects, will be published May 4th in Bangkok.

Worried about all this? Instead of panicking, hit our guides for How to Go Green and start taking action!

::IPCC 4th Assessment Report ::Clarin newspaper original article ::BBC Mundo interview with Graciela Magrin ::Terra WFF article

IPCC on Latin America: Land Drought and Coastlines Floodings are on the Menu
Agriculture yields projected to go down, threatening food security in the region.

Related Content on Treehugger.com