Region could face US$100billion climate change bill
RIO, Brazil, Wednesday June 13, 2012 – With most of the Caribbean and Latin America struggling to keep up with their debts, an additional US$100billion annual bill is the last thing they need. But that’s what they could get without increased efforts to stem the effects of global warming.
According to a recent report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), if temperatures rise by two degrees Celsius across the region, the physical impacts could cause annual damages estimated at two percent of current gross domestic product.
The study said that the region is especially at risk to the increasing temperatures globally due to its reliance on natural resources and geographic location, adding that significant changes will be seen by 2050.
"Reduction in agricultural yields of many staple crops, increased flooding and inundation of coastal zones, increased exposure to tropical diseases, destabilisation of the hydrological cycle, and the intensification of extreme weather events" are among likely outcomes, the report said. Loss from agricultural exports alone was valued at between US$30 and US$52billion for the region.
Many of the changes are permanent and will continue to affect the region over the long-term, which makes the situation more worrying, said the report presented at the Rio+20 summit in Brazil.
There's hope, nevertheless, as steps to adapt to the issues created by global warming amount to just one-tenth of the cost of physical impacts. That US$10 billion is deemed "cost-effective" in preventing the negative impact on economic and geographic conditions that the likely increased temperatures would bring.
Using a "business as usual" scenario, in which no measures are taken towards cutting dangerous gases, emissions will increase by 50 percent, the report said. Despite expected reductions in emissions due to changing land use, it's projected that increases in other sectors will more than erode that improvement.
Though adaptation is important, the report said substantial investments are required to drastically cut the region's projected carbon emissions to levels that are consistent with global goals.
Unfortunately, no international agreement has been reached to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that cause global temperatures to rise. That said, current trends cannot continue, according to the report, as that "would lead to a future that must be avoided".
Policies that promote strict land use for deforestation and other agricultural practices should be implemented in the next two decades, the report said. Also, measures to reduce carbon emissions in the power and transport sectors should be stressed to achieve more sustainable targets.
The cost would be a lot to bear, said Pablo Gutman, a WWF director, especially for a region that faces major development challenges, but "this would bring about major benefits such as improved food and energy security; people would have healthier lives in cleaner environments.