Guatemala Adapting to climate change

first_imgBut it’s not just Guatemala’s geographical location that leaves it susceptible: Poor housing, high malnutrition and unemployment also conspire to make the country’s inhabitants more vulnerable, with indigenous communities and farmers among the most affected.The effects of climate change are already visible: rainy season (mid-May to mid-October) starts later and finishes earlier, and downpours are concentrated into shorter periods of time, often triggering landslides and flooding of entire towns.However, despite the extreme weather phenomena, the country generates one of the lowest carbon-emissions rates per capita. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean determined that all Central American countries combined contribute less than 0.5 percent of global greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.In 1998, with help from the World Environment Fund, Guatemala started to look at adaptation and mitigation techniques to minimize the adverse effects of climate change. Three years later it established a Climate Change Unit, which works with various government agencies to strengthen national action plans and implement programs to protect the most vulnerable communities while reducing CO2 emissions. Natural disasters like these 2011 floods in the department of Escuintla, 100 km south of Guatemala City, are becoming increasingly common in Guatemala, one of the world’s 10 countries most affected by climate change. Johan Ordóñez/AFP GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala is one of the top 10 countries most affected by climate change and one of the most vulnerable to natural disasters, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.The Central American nation’s geographical position, straddling three tectonic plates and two oceans, leaves it prone to tropical storms, droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes, which have been occurring with increasing frequency over the past decade.In 2005, Hurricane Stan swept through Guatemala leaving more than 1,500 people dead, 500,000 victims and damages estimated at $989 million.In 2010, Pacaya Volcano erupted, scattering volcanic ash and debris across Guatemala City, bringing economic life in the capital of 1.5 million residents to a standstill. Two days later, Tropical Storm Agatha hit, leaving an equally expensive cleanup operation.“[Natural disasters] have had serious consequences for the country: loss of infrastructure due to landslides and floods, loss of harvest causing food shortages and loss of natural space,” said José Luis Rivera, coordinator of Guatemala’s Climate Change Unit, an initiative set up by the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry. “In the last decade we have suffered dry spells and floods that have caused loss of life and severe socioeconomic damage, in addition to putting rural communities, especially women, children and indigenous populations at risk.” Five of Angela Saravia’s relatives were buried in a landslide at Boca del Monte, Guatemala, 22 km south of the capital, on Oct. 16, 2011. Experts say Guatemala is one of the countries that will be most affected by climate change, and the poorest of the poor will suffer most. Johan Ordóñez/AFPlast_img read more