Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Latin America’s climate conundrum

Simeon Tegel in the Global Post: From Tierra del Fuego to Tijuana, Latin America is highly vulnerable to climate change, which is expected to trigger a series of natural disasters that could even reverse local victories in the fight against poverty.

Droughts will grip regions from the southern cone to northern Mexico. Extreme storms are increasingly battering Central America. Rising seas will swallow up vast coastal areas. And many Andean glaciers will disappear forever.

Meanwhile, the greatest threat to the Amazon — home to roughly a third of all plant and animal species — may no longer be logging or cattle ranching but climate change itself. Gently rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns are leaving the world’s largest tropical rainforest more vulnerable to dieback, drought and forest fires.

Some scientists even warn that could trigger “positive feedback” as deforested areas generate less rain — leading to yet more dieback, drought and fires in an unstoppable cycle that could turn much of the Amazon into savannah regardless of any local successes in the fight against loggers. That would accelerate the global climate crisis as the vanishing jungle unleashes billions of tons of carbon currently locked in its plants and trees.

Although scientists remain wary of blaming individual weather events on climate change, almost all agree that the bigger picture of unpredictable weather, unprecedented storms, floods and droughts leaves no room for doubt that climate change is already upon us. All of these phenomena will have huge costs, both human and economic. Experts predict that it will be the poor who will be hit hardest....

A smoggy day in Mexico City, shot by Fidel Gonzalez, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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