The Climate and Development Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean

[The Climate and Development Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean]

The report appropriately reminds us of the physical impact of climate change in the region,which are almost certain to escalate over time. The Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of theUnited Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) observed in 2007 that even if the concentration of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at the levels of year 2000, further warming of about 0.1˚C would be expected because of inertia in the global system. At the same time, for the entire range of emissions scenarios used by the IPCC, a warming of about 0.2˚C per decade has been projected. Therefore, climate change will continue to affect agriculture, biodiversity, and water availability: Many areas of tropical Latin America will continue to face a risk of significant loss of biodiversity through species extinction; productivity of some important crops is projected to decrease and livestock productivity to decline, with adverse consequences for food security. Even if, as is expected, soybean yields rise in temperate zones, the number of people at risk of hunger is projected to rise. Changes in precipitation patterns and the disappearance of glaciers are projected to significantly affect the availability of water for human consumption, agriculture, and energy generation. The AR4 also highlighted the fact that anthropogenic warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending on the rate and magnitude of climate change. All of these impacts have economic consequences. This report includes a necessarily partial estimate of those consequences, while also recognizing that no economic estimate can fully capture the effects of climate change. The case for adaptation, if deployed early, is forcefully presented. The report also recognizes that adaptation can go only so far if impacts are allowed to accumulate. In the end, adaptation at best buys time while we put in place lasting mitigation efforts (which will have to be drastic) and embrace global stabilization goals. The AR4 noted that adaptation and mitigation, pursued together, can significantly reduce the risks of climate change, but that neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can avoid all climate-change impacts. Although the carbon footprint of Latin America and the Caribbean is modest and appears to be decreasing, efforts to further reduce that footprint are required if global climate stabilization goals are to be achieved. A substantial contribution of this report is the outlining of specific paths (expressed as sets of actions) toward the achievement of a footprint of two tons per capita per annum in the region.

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