Latin America | Floods and landslides kill hundreds and wildfires increase carbon dioxide emissions

2023-07-07 2023-07-07T05:55:10Z
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ArabiaWeather - (World Meteorological Organization (WMO)) - Extreme weather and climate shocks are becoming more severe in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an acceleration of the long-term warming trend and sea level rise, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). ).

The temperatures rose above average

The State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean 2022 report stated that over the past 30 years, temperatures have risen at a rate of 0.2°C per decade - the highest rate on record. The report highlights a vicious cycle of spiraling effects on countries and communities.

Mounting effects of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean

Thus, for example, a prolonged drought has reduced hydropower production in large parts of South America, which has greatly increased the demand for fossil fuels in a region with great untapped potential in renewable energy.

The intense heat, coupled with soil dryness, fueled periods of unprecedented forest fires at the height of the summer of 2022, which led to carbon dioxide emissions rising to their highest levels in 20 years, and then remaining stable in light of the higher temperatures.

The melting of glaciers has worsened, threatening future ecosystems and water security for millions of people. The summer of 2022 witnessed an almost complete loss of snow accumulation in the glaciers of the central Andes, as dirty and dark glaciers absorbed more solar radiation, which in turn accelerated the rate of melting.

Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said: “Tropical cyclones, heavy precipitation and flood events and severe multi-year droughts caused billions of lives and economic damage throughout 2022. The continued increase in sea level rise and ocean warming Increasing risks to livelihoods, ecosystems and economies in coastal areas.

He said: “Many extreme events were affected by the long-running La Niña, but it also bore the hallmark of human-induced climate change. The newly arrived El Niño will result in increased heat and will be associated with more extreme weather. The Early Warning Systems for All initiative will be vital to protect Lives and Livelihoods".

Professor Taalas said: “Agriculture, food security and energy are the areas of highest priority in terms of climate change adaptation and mitigation in the region. The report addresses these key themes, highlighting the effects of the region’s ongoing drought on agricultural production and the untapped potential of renewable energy. particularly solar and wind resources.

A high share of modern renewable energy sources is in Latin America

Latin America and the Caribbean have a high share of modern renewables in total final energy consumption, thanks mainly to hydropower. However, the region also has potential to benefit from solar and wind resources, which accounted for only 16 percent of total renewable energy generation in 2020.

Latin America and the Caribbean play a vital role in food production and ecosystem services that benefit not only the region itself, but the entire planet. They are also highly vulnerable to climate risks because about three-quarters of the population lives in informal urban settlements and about eight percent of the population suffers from undernourishment.

The report was issued during discussions for an international convention on environment and development, organized in La Havana, Cuba, and ahead of a conference of directors of meteorological and hydrological services from Iberoamericana. The report highlights the importance of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Regional Climate Centers in providing enhanced services to support adaptation to climate change and mitigate its effects.

This report is the third annual report of its kind in the region and provides decision makers with regional and local context-appropriate information to guide action. The report is accompanied by an interactive descriptive map.

Key messages from the report:


The period from 1991 to 2022 showed an average warming trend of about 0.2°C per decade (a higher trend was recorded in Mexico and the Caribbean). This was the strongest trend since the beginning of the 30-year baseline measurement periods in 1900. Overall, 2022 was not as warm as 2021 in the region due to the cooling effect of the three-year La Niña phenomenon.

sea level

It continued to rise at a higher rate in the subtropical South Atlantic and North Atlantic than the global average. Sea level rise threatens a large proportion of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean living in coastal areas by polluting freshwater aquifers, eroding beaches, inundating low-lying areas, and increasing the risk of coastal flooding.

Tropical cyclones

Hurricanes, in particular Fiona, Lisa and Ian, caused massive damage in Central America and the Caribbean. Hurricane Fiona caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damages in hard-hit Puerto Rico.

Floods and landslides

The heavy rains caused hundreds of deaths and billions of US dollars in economic losses. In the space of just a few weeks in March and February, two rain-related disasters devastated Petropolis in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, killing more than 230 people.

The prolonged drought has affected important economic sectors such as agriculture, energy, transportation and water supplies.

In Brazil, the agricultural production index decreased by 5.2 percent in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021, due to lower production of soybeans and corn.

Drought across the Paraná la Plata Basin in southeastern South America - one of the world's main breadbaskets - was the worst since 1944. The decline in hydroelectric production due to reduced river flows led to the replacement of hydroelectric sources by fossil fuels, which hindered Efforts to bring about a transformation in the energy sector leading to achieving net zero emissions.

This was the fourth driest year on record in Chile, which has been experiencing a massive 14-year drought, the longest and driest the region has seen in more than 1,000 years.

Heat waves and forest fires

In January, November and December 2022, the southern regions of South America experienced prolonged and intense heat waves.

Exceptionally high temperatures, low air humidity and severe drought have led to periods of unprecedented forest fires in many South American countries. In January and February, both Argentina and Paraguay recorded an increase of more than 250 percent in the number of highly vulnerable areas detected compared to the average for the period 2001-2021. From January to March, carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires were the highest in the past 20 years. Bolivia and Chile also witnessed a dramatic increase in forest fires during heat waves in November and December 2022.

Total emissions in the Brazilian Amazon were close to the average for the 2003-2021 period. In contrast, Amazonas had the highest total fire season emissions from July to October in the past 20 years at just over 22 megatons, about five megatons higher than the previous record set for 2021.

renewable energy capacity

It increased by 33 percent between 2015 and 2020. However, the pace must be accelerated as electricity demand is expected to increase by 48 percent from 2020 to 2030. In addition to the large hydropower potential in Latin America and the Caribbean, there are untapped solar and wind resources that accounted for 16 percent of total renewable energy generation in 2020.

The main climatic drivers

Latin America and the Caribbean are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, and the climate is largely influenced by prevailing sea surface temperatures and associated large-scale atmospheric-ocean coupling phenomena, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

The year 2022 marked the third consecutive year of La Niña conditions. This was combined with higher air temperatures and decreased precipitation over northern Mexico, a prolonged period of dry conditions across much of southeastern South America, and increased precipitation in parts of Central America, northern South America and in the Amazon.

Climate-related impacts and risks

People in Latin America and the Caribbean must raise awareness of climate-related risks, strengthen early warning systems in the region and reach communities who need them most. Data for 2020 indicate that only 60 percent of the population is covered by multi-hazard early warning systems.

In 2022, 78 dangerous meteorological, hydrological and climatic events were reported in the region, according to the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT) of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

Of these phenomena, 86 percent were storm and flood related phenomena and were responsible for 98 percent of the 1,153 deaths documented in the database.

The $9 billion in economic damage reported to EM-DAT is mainly attributed to drought (40 percent) and storms (32 percent). The true figures related to the impacts of extreme events are presumed to be worse because of underreporting and because data on impacts are not available for some countries.

This article was written originally in Arabic and is translated using a 3rd party automated service. ArabiaWeather is not responsible for any grammatical errors whatsoever.
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