Monday October 21, 2019

Guatemala’s Poor Highly Vulnerable to the Impact of Climate Change

Guatemala is located in a wet, tropical area but poor management has caused major water shortages in many areas, he said

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FILE - A man cycles past a sugar cane field near Amatitlan, Guatemala. VOA

Guatemala’s subsistence farmers and indigenous people living in poor rural communities are most affected by rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall linked to climate change, a leading researcher said Friday.

Poverty makes the Central American country highly vulnerable to the impact of global warming that damages harvests and causes food shortages, said Edwin Castellanos, lead author of a report by the Guatemalan System of Climate Change Sciences (SGCCC).

Guatemala could see a rise of 3 to 6 degrees Celsius by 2100 and a drop of 10 to 30 percent in rainfall if countries such as China, India and the United States do not cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to the SGCCC.

climate change
Guatemala is located in a wet, tropical area but poor management has caused major water shortages in many areas, he said. Pixabay

Nearly 200 countries agreed in 2015 to curbing greenhouse emissions enough to keep the global hike in temperatures “well below” 2 C above pre-industrial times while pursuing a tougher 1.5 C ceiling. Carbon dioxide and methane are the main greenhouse gases that trap heat and contribute to climate change.

“Guatemala is very vulnerable due to its high levels of poverty,” said Castellanos, who is dean of the Research Institute at Guatemala’s Valle University and a leading expert in climate change in Central America. “Changes in weather exacerbate and worsen the situation, especially among the poorest populations,” he said.

Chronic malnutrition

Seven in every 10 farming families live in poverty, and nearly half of all children under age 5 have chronic malnutrition, according to a report this week by the SGCCC, a group of universities, researchers and government agencies.

About half of Guatemala’s population of 17 million is indigenous, many of them subsistence bean and maize farmers. “It will depend a lot on what developed countries do to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” Castellanos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Climate Change
Also, over the past four decades, the average temperature in Guatemala has risen already by at least 1 degree Celsius, according to the SGCCC. VOA

Rainfall in Guatemala is becoming more unpredictable, resulting in crop losses, he said. “The rainy season is starting later,” he said. “When it does start to rain, the rains are very intense.” Guatemala is located in a wet, tropical area but poor management has caused major water shortages in many areas, he said.

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Also, over the past four decades, the average temperature in Guatemala has risen already by at least 1 degree Celsius, according to the SGCCC. In 2013, Guatemala passed a law requiring all government agencies to draw up plans to combat climate change, but it lacks the resources and funding to effect major change, he said.

Guatemala’s agriculture ministry has started helping small farmers set up irrigation systems to cope with drought, but only about a thousand irrigation systems are being built a year when millions of families are in need, he said. (VOA)

Next Story

Climate change, Pollution Causing Irreversible Damage to New Zealand’s Marine Environment

Agriculture, forestry and urbanization are increasing the amount of sediment, chemicals and plastics flowing

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Climate Change, Pollution, Damage
FILE - Activists march on Parliament to protest a lack of action on climate change, in Wellington, New Zealand, Sept. 27, 2019. VOA

Climate change, pollution and fishing are causing irreversible damage to New Zealand’s marine environment and putting many birds and mammals at risk of extinction, according to a new report from the nation’s Ministry for the Environment.

The report said New Zealand’s coastline, which stretches for about 15,000 kilometers, is also under increasing pressure from development and shipping. Agriculture, forestry and urbanization are increasing the amount of sediment, chemicals and plastics flowing into the oceans, and contaminating the coastline, it said.

The report said 90 percent of the country’s seabirds and about a quarter of its marine mammals are threatened with extinction, and that 16 percent of New Zealand’s fish stocks had been overfished.

“The sea is a receiving environment for what happens on the land, so our activities on land from the mountains to the sea are having an impact on what we are seeing in the marine environment; growing cities, forestry, agriculture — all delivering increasing amounts of sedimentation,” said Vicky Robertson, New Zealand’s secretary for the environment.

Climate Change, Pollution, Damage
The report said New Zealand’s coastline, which stretches for about 15,000 kilometers, is also under increasing pressure from development and shipping. Pixabay

Warmer seas

The report also confirmed that New Zealand’s sea temperature had risen and was consistent with the global average. It also found sea levels were rising faster than before.

There was a warning, too, that New Zealand could expect more frequent marine heat waves, similar to those in 2017 and 2018, and ocean acidification.

For the first time, data from citizen scientists were used in the government report. Community groups were instructed about how to collect robust data.

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The next official marine environment report is due in three years.

New Zealand is a grouping of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Australia. It has a population of 4.5 million people. (VOA)