Alex Randall

The Latin American region is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. Many of its countries are located in the hurricane belt; others depend on the thaw of the snow and ice deposits in the Andes to supply water to their urban and agricultural sectors; and several are at high risk from major disasters such as floods. (This is an edited extract from our Moving Stories report. Download the entire report)

Rains recently have been very intense.  Very intense.  Without comparison, like nothing seen before.  Years ago the rainy season lasted two months. November and December.  Water levels reached 20 to 30 Centimetres.  Today, they go past two metres in the last six to seven months.  We’ve never seen this before.  We don’t want to leave our land.  Here are our past, our memories, our ancestors. We don’t want to move to other parts. We don’t know what to do there.  We will turn into delinquents.  We’d enter into a cycle of poverty which happens in the cities. Octavio Rodriguez. Las Caracuchas, Sucre, Colombia

Since 1998, the melting ice from the ice fields in Patagonia has contributed to around 2% of the global annual sea level rise. The region has experienced climate variability and more extreme weather events over recent years, such as intense Venezuelan rainfall (1999, 2005), flooding in Argentina (2000-2002, 2007), Amazon drought (2005), hail storms in Bolivia (2002) and the Greater Buenos Aires area (2006), the unprecedented Hurricane Catarina in the South Atlantic (2004) and the record hurricane season of 2005 in the Caribbean Basin, extreme floods in El Salvador (2011), Tropical storm Matthew in Venezuela (2010) and a series of floods in Colombia (2011).

When I was young, it was quite mild, not such a hot heat. That’s why Illimani is melting. It’s three times as hot. It did not use to be so hot. I am very sad when I see the snowline going up. I don’t want it to be like that. I don’t have any children, but other compañeros in the community, they do have children. They are going to suffer the last days, if there is no water. I am 67 years-old, and I am not going to suffer as I am going to die. But the other villagers, yes they will suffer. That’s why I am so upset that there is not going to be any water. I am going to live another ten to fifteen years, but the others… I am not going to see it. But the young will witness the end of Illimani. 67-year-old Marcos Choque, Khapi, Bolivia

Predicted increases in temperature will severely affect this region and its arable lands. Significantly, 90% of Latin America’s agriculture is rainfed. A survey of rural populations in Peru found that changing rainfall patterns had a ‘severe’ effect on 53% of respondents’ ability to produce food. Other stresses compound the ability of this region to adapt to climatic changes. Demographic pressures as a result of rural to urban migration have led to unemployment and unsanitary conditions, resulting in the spread of infectious diseases.

I am very worried. The snow and ice is disappearing and melting day by day, year by year. The sun is stronger. It doesn’t snow as much. We are very concerned… There could be a tremendous drought. There might be no more snow, no more water coming down. So how would we irrigate our plots of land? My son would have to leave and go somewhere else, to other countries. Lucia Quispe, 38, Khapi, Bolivia


Additionally, over-exploitation is a threat to local production systems and has led to water exploitation and the mismanagement of irrigation systems. Similarly deforestation from agricultural expansion in parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil has caused land degradation. Historically (prior to the 1970s) many Latin American countries were the destination for European migrants and had net immigration situation which has reversed in recent decades.

My grandfather, father and I have worked these lands. But times have changed…the rain is coming later now, so that we produce less. The only solution is to go away, at least for a while. Each year I’m working for 3 to 5 months in Wyoming. That’s my main source of income. But leaving my village forever? No. I was raised here and here I will stay. Miguel, 45 years, Hueyotlipan, Mexico

The debt crisis of the 1980s led to the so called ‘lost decade’; industrialisation growth in the extractive industries and large-scale intensive agriculture were all economic drivers of migration. Flow followthe pattern of urbanisation and emigration to the EU. In 2006 a third of Argentines claimed they would emigrate if they had the resources to do so. In Ecuador the top destination of internal migrants is to newly deforested areas, which are sites of intensive agriculture and jobs. Conflict is another main driver of migratory flows, especially in regards to Columbians fleeing the violence caused by the FARC / government fighting.

The number of government- registered ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) in Colombia rose to 3.9 million in 2010/11, making it the world’s largest internally displaced population. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that migration from the countryside to the cities will continue. Whilst there are inevitably a range of factors that lead people to migrate, the impact of climate change, especially if livelihoods are damaged, may intensify rural-urban migration. The significance of this is that urban areas will need to adapt to both climatic changes and an increase in population.

Thumbnail image. Creative Commons, from Flickr by Richard777 

Sources

Refugees International. (2012). Colombia: Two Years Under Water. [Online Video]. 27 March. Available from: http://bit.ly/13LfUDm. [Accessed 23 August 2013].

Oxfam Bolivia, 2009. Bolivia Climate change, poverty and adaptation. 1st ed. La Paz: Oxfam. Faist, F; Alsher, S, 2009.

EACH-FOR Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios. Mexico case study report. 1st ed. Stockholm: EACH-FOR.

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2010. Climate change: a regional perspective. Unity Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean. 1st ed. Mexico City: ECLAC.

World Bank. 2012. Climate Change: Is Latin America prepared for temperatures to rise 4 degrees?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bit.ly/VEG3zP. [Accessed 23 August 13].

M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds) (2007). Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 13, 13.2.2.

BBC News. 2011. Central America floods and landslides ‘leave 80 dead’. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bbc.in/pBYYMq. [Accessed 23 August 13].

Garlati , A, 2013. Climate Change and extreme weather events in Latin America: an exposure index. 1st ed. Washington: Inter-American Development Bank.

Hoffman, M; Grigera, A, 2013. Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in the Amazon and the Andes: Rising Tensions and Policy Options in South America. 1st ed. Washington: Centre for American Progress.

Ho, Raúl, and Andrea Milan (2012). “Where the Rain Falls” project. Case study: Peru.  Results from Huancayo Province, Junín Region. Report No. 5. Bonn: United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. 2013. Colombia: Improved government response yet to have impact for IDPs. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bit.ly/qCC7y2. [Accessed 23 August 13].

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Alex Randall

The Latin American region is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. Many of its countries are located in the hurricane belt; others depend on the thaw of the snow and ice deposits in the Andes to supply water to their urban and agricultural sectors; and several are at high risk from major disasters such as floods. (This is an edited extract from our Moving Stories report. Download the entire report)

Rains recently have been very intense.  Very intense.  Without comparison, like nothing seen before.  Years ago the rainy season lasted two months. November and December.  Water levels reached 20 to 30 Centimetres.  Today, they go past two metres in the last six to seven months.  We’ve never seen this before.  We don’t want to leave our land.  Here are our past, our memories, our ancestors. We don’t want to move to other parts. We don’t know what to do there.  We will turn into delinquents.  We’d enter into a cycle of poverty which happens in the cities. Octavio Rodriguez. Las Caracuchas, Sucre, Colombia

Since 1998, the melting ice from the ice fields in Patagonia has contributed to around 2% of the global annual sea level rise. The region has experienced climate variability and more extreme weather events over recent years, such as intense Venezuelan rainfall (1999, 2005), flooding in Argentina (2000-2002, 2007), Amazon drought (2005), hail storms in Bolivia (2002) and the Greater Buenos Aires area (2006), the unprecedented Hurricane Catarina in the South Atlantic (2004) and the record hurricane season of 2005 in the Caribbean Basin, extreme floods in El Salvador (2011), Tropical storm Matthew in Venezuela (2010) and a series of floods in Colombia (2011).

When I was young, it was quite mild, not such a hot heat. That’s why Illimani is melting. It’s three times as hot. It did not use to be so hot. I am very sad when I see the snowline going up. I don’t want it to be like that. I don’t have any children, but other compañeros in the community, they do have children. They are going to suffer the last days, if there is no water. I am 67 years-old, and I am not going to suffer as I am going to die. But the other villagers, yes they will suffer. That’s why I am so upset that there is not going to be any water. I am going to live another ten to fifteen years, but the others… I am not going to see it. But the young will witness the end of Illimani. 67-year-old Marcos Choque, Khapi, Bolivia

Predicted increases in temperature will severely affect this region and its arable lands. Significantly, 90% of Latin America’s agriculture is rainfed. A survey of rural populations in Peru found that changing rainfall patterns had a ‘severe’ effect on 53% of respondents’ ability to produce food. Other stresses compound the ability of this region to adapt to climatic changes. Demographic pressures as a result of rural to urban migration have led to unemployment and unsanitary conditions, resulting in the spread of infectious diseases.

I am very worried. The snow and ice is disappearing and melting day by day, year by year. The sun is stronger. It doesn’t snow as much. We are very concerned… There could be a tremendous drought. There might be no more snow, no more water coming down. So how would we irrigate our plots of land? My son would have to leave and go somewhere else, to other countries. Lucia Quispe, 38, Khapi, Bolivia


Additionally, over-exploitation is a threat to local production systems and has led to water exploitation and the mismanagement of irrigation systems. Similarly deforestation from agricultural expansion in parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil has caused land degradation. Historically (prior to the 1970s) many Latin American countries were the destination for European migrants and had net immigration situation which has reversed in recent decades.

My grandfather, father and I have worked these lands. But times have changed…the rain is coming later now, so that we produce less. The only solution is to go away, at least for a while. Each year I’m working for 3 to 5 months in Wyoming. That’s my main source of income. But leaving my village forever? No. I was raised here and here I will stay. Miguel, 45 years, Hueyotlipan, Mexico

The debt crisis of the 1980s led to the so called ‘lost decade’; industrialisation growth in the extractive industries and large-scale intensive agriculture were all economic drivers of migration. Flow followthe pattern of urbanisation and emigration to the EU. In 2006 a third of Argentines claimed they would emigrate if they had the resources to do so. In Ecuador the top destination of internal migrants is to newly deforested areas, which are sites of intensive agriculture and jobs. Conflict is another main driver of migratory flows, especially in regards to Columbians fleeing the violence caused by the FARC / government fighting.

The number of government- registered ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) in Colombia rose to 3.9 million in 2010/11, making it the world’s largest internally displaced population. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that migration from the countryside to the cities will continue. Whilst there are inevitably a range of factors that lead people to migrate, the impact of climate change, especially if livelihoods are damaged, may intensify rural-urban migration. The significance of this is that urban areas will need to adapt to both climatic changes and an increase in population.

Thumbnail image. Creative Commons, from Flickr by Richard777 

Sources

Refugees International. (2012). Colombia: Two Years Under Water. [Online Video]. 27 March. Available from: http://bit.ly/13LfUDm. [Accessed 23 August 2013].

Oxfam Bolivia, 2009. Bolivia Climate change, poverty and adaptation. 1st ed. La Paz: Oxfam. Faist, F; Alsher, S, 2009.

EACH-FOR Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios. Mexico case study report. 1st ed. Stockholm: EACH-FOR.

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2010. Climate change: a regional perspective. Unity Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean. 1st ed. Mexico City: ECLAC.

World Bank. 2012. Climate Change: Is Latin America prepared for temperatures to rise 4 degrees?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bit.ly/VEG3zP. [Accessed 23 August 13].

M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds) (2007). Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 13, 13.2.2.

BBC News. 2011. Central America floods and landslides ‘leave 80 dead’. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bbc.in/pBYYMq. [Accessed 23 August 13].

Garlati , A, 2013. Climate Change and extreme weather events in Latin America: an exposure index. 1st ed. Washington: Inter-American Development Bank.

Hoffman, M; Grigera, A, 2013. Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in the Amazon and the Andes: Rising Tensions and Policy Options in South America. 1st ed. Washington: Centre for American Progress.

Ho, Raúl, and Andrea Milan (2012). “Where the Rain Falls” project. Case study: Peru.  Results from Huancayo Province, Junín Region. Report No. 5. Bonn: United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. 2013. Colombia: Improved government response yet to have impact for IDPs. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bit.ly/qCC7y2. [Accessed 23 August 13].

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