Floods, heat waves and the longest drought in 1,000 years: Latin America is grappling with the devastating effects of climate change that are only getting worse, a World Meteorological Organization report warned on Friday.
In its 2021 Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) State of the Climate (LAC) report, the WMO said ecosystems, food and water, human health and well-being would be adversely affected.
Glaciers in the tropical Andes have lost more than 30 percent of their surface area in less than 50 years, raising the risk of water shortages in many regions, it said.
Sea levels continued to rise faster than the world, and central Chile’s so-called mega-drought — lasting 13 years — is the longest in at least 1,000 years.
Meanwhile, deforestation rates were “the highest since 2009, a blow to both the environment and climate action,” the report said.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has doubled from the 2009-2018 average, with 22 percent more forest cover lost in 2021 than the year before.
The Amazon provides oxygen-producing and carbon-sequestering functions that are vital not only to the region but to the world.
– “Decades of Progress” stalled –
The report also documented the third-highest number — 21 — of named storms recorded for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, and extreme rainfall that killed hundreds and destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes.
“Increasing sea level rise and ocean warming are expected to continue to affect coastal livelihoods, tourism, health, food, energy and water security, particularly in small islands and Central American countries,” he said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas.
“For many Andean cities, melting glaciers mean the loss of a significant source of freshwater…for domestic use, irrigation and hydroelectric power.”
Worsening climate change, amplified by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, has “stalled decades of progress in tackling poverty, food insecurity and reducing inequality in the region,” added Mario Cimoli of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean .
In Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, 7.7 million people experienced high levels of food insecurity in 2021.
The LAC region experienced an average rate of temperature increase of about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade between 1991 and 2021, the report says – double the rate from 1961 to 1990.
“Unfortunately, the region faces greater impacts as both the atmosphere and ocean continue to change rapidly,” the WMO said in a press release.
“Food and water supplies will be disrupted. Cities and the infrastructure needed to sustain them will be increasingly at risk.”
The region urgently needs early warning systems to adapt to climate extremes, the WMO said.
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