Climate Change Will Cost 137% of Current GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2100
The study projects that without international mitigation efforts, the region could suffer important losses in agriculture and biodiversity, strong pressures on infrastructure and a growing intensity of extreme weather events.
The study, which outlines the economic impact of climate change in the region, was presented today during a side event of the XV Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (known as COP 15) taking place in Copenhagen.
The report forecasts that without international mitigation actions, by the end of this century, the region could suffer important losses in agriculture and biodiversity, strong pressures on infrastructure and a growing intensity of natural disasters. These accumulated losses would represent a significant proportion of current GDP.
The estimates are based on calculations for 15 nations: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay.
The report was prepared by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean with the collaboration of the governments of Germany, Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union, the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and a broad network of academic and research institutions.
Although Latin America and the Caribbean is the second region in the world with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions after Africa, it is nevertheless suffering the effects of global warming more than any other, says the report. This urgently demands technological and financial support from developed countries for the region's efforts of adaptation and mitigation.
The report stresses that the economic costs are very heterogeneous between countries and regions and will be unpredictable (non-lineal) throughout the century.
For example, some countries will experience temporary benefits in their agriculture sectors as a result of less than a 2ºC rise in temperature and changes in rainfall, although in the long-run the negative effects will predominate. With a global temperature rise over 3ºC, some countries or regions could lose up to 30% or 40% of their biodiversity.
Agricultural productivity in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay will benefit if the temperature increases between 1.5ºC and 2ºC during 2030-2050. However, if the temperature rises above that, the effects will be negative.
By 2100, the proportion of degraded land in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru will range from 22% to 62% of their total territory. The availability of water will diminish as well, especially in South America.
Rising sea levels will lead to the displacement of populations and the loss of lands due to permanent flooding. Small Caribbean islands will be strongly impacted. Mangroves on lower coasts (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana and Guyana) may disappear and the coastal areas of Río de la Plata (River Plate) in Argentina and Uruguay may be seriously threatened.
A 3ºC increase in global temperature could lead to a sharp drop in precipitations in the Amazon region, causing a substantial deterioration of jungles that are home to one of the world's largest concentrations of biodiversity.
Climate variations and extreme weather events will mean that by 2100, the cost of climatic disasters will increase from an annual average of US$8.6 billion (2000-2008) to a maximum possible of almost US$250 billion.
In this context, ECLAC calls for designing a strategy for regional public policies that may reduce the most serious effects of climate change based on:
Preserving biodiversity and natural resources for future generations
Acknowledging the need to revise lifestyles and promote cultural change
Promoting technological innovation for sustainable development
Ensuring the transition to low-carbon economies, recognizing that the era of cheap, almost limitless fossil energy is coming to an end, and adjusting relative prices in consequence.