Climate change to cost Andean countries billions

Climate change could bring economic chaos to the countries crossed by the Andes as rising temperatures play havoc with the glaciers on which many of the region's industries rely.

The annual cost of climate change in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru could be breaking the US$30bn barrier by 2025, according to South American scientists.

This is the conclusion of a report prepared by Peru’s former agriculture minister, Carlos Amat y León, for the Andean Community (CAN).

The document is a kind of Stern Report for the region, tallying the potential economic damage linked to glacial loss, flooding, disruption to water supply and more frequent occurrences of extreme weather events tied to El Niño.

Mr Amat y Leon said: “Climate change is already happening. Floods, droughts, landslides, frosts, and landslips virtually doubled between 2002 and 2006, as compared with the five-year period 1987-1991.

“Since 1970, every single province in the CAN countries has experienced at least one hydrometeorological disaster.”

He said that climate change has been evident in the sub-region for over 30 years.

“While changes in global temperature have amounted to 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade since 1990, in the central Andean region the rise in temperature between 1974 and 1998 was 0.34 degrees Celsius – in other words, 70% more than the global average.”

He warned that if the temperature rises over 2 degrees Celsius, the Andean countries will find themselves in a serious situation.

“The Amazon could begin to collapse as glacial retreat intensifies, jeopardizing the supply of water,” he said.

Even if this does not happen, by 2020, deglaciation in the Andes could put close to 40m people at risk of losing their water supply for drinking, hydroenergy and farming, he added.

The full report, in Spanish can be found, here.

David Gibbs

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