Latin America’s Climate Crisis: Heat, Hunger, and Hardship

Last Updated: June 18, 2024By

Latin America’s Climate Crisis: Heat, Hunger, and Hardship

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Hey there, let’s talk about something really important and close to home. It’s been a rough year for Latin America, with crazy weather causing a lot of problems. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) just released a report, and it’s pretty alarming.

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Heatwaves and Havoc

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Imagine being stuck between two boiling hot oceans – that’s what’s happening to Latin America. Last year, the extreme heat, along with floods and droughts, led to tens of thousands of deaths and cost around $21 billion. Yeah, that’s a lot of money!

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One of the worst-hit places was Porto Alegre in Brazil. After the hottest April ever, the city faced massive floods that killed at least 95 people and destroyed farmlands.

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Breaking Records – Not in a Good Way

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For 11 months straight, global heat records were shattered. Latin America and the Caribbean felt the worst of it. The WMO’s report shows that climate change, disasters, and socioeconomic shocks are pushing 13.8 million people into severe food insecurity. That means a lot of people are struggling to get enough to eat.

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Diseases on the Rise

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As the planet warms, diseases spread more easily. In the first seven months of last year, there were over 3 million cases of dengue fever – breaking the previous record. Uruguay reported its first chikungunya cases, and Chile raised alerts about mosquitoes spreading diseases.

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Deaths from Heat

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On average, nearly 37,000 people die each year from heat in this region. Given the record-breaking temperatures last year, this number is expected to be even higher. Mexico hit a scorching 51.4°C in August, with many areas suffering prolonged heatwaves. By the end of the year, 76% of Mexico was dealing with drought.

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Devastating Hurricanes and Droughts

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In October, Acapulco was hit by Hurricane Otis, the first category 5 hurricane to land on the Pacific coast. It killed at least 48 people and caused $12 billion in damages.

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Central and South America didn’t escape either. The Panama Canal had 41% less rainfall, disrupting global trade. Brazil, the largest country in Latin America, saw record winter heat over 41°C and severe droughts in the Amazon. Fires raged, and more than 100 river dolphins died in the overheated, polluted waters of Lake Tefé.

Floods and More Floods

Brazil has also been hit by deadly floods. In February, 65 people died in São Paulo from rains and landslides. In September, another 48 were killed and 20,000 displaced in Rio Grande do Sul after heavy rain. Porto Alegre is currently dealing with severe flooding, with streets turning into rivers and the international airport shut down.

Impact on Agriculture

Floods also hit Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, and Bolivia, ruining crops and disrupting businesses. This has severely hurt agricultural production. Argentina’s wheat production fell 30% below the five-year average. Brazil saw some regions with record maize production, but food prices are still rising. This food crisis is even worse in countries like Venezuela and Haiti, which are also dealing with political and economic problems.

Looking Ahead

The WMO’s report paints a grim picture. As long as we keep burning fossil fuels, emitting greenhouse gases, and cutting down trees, these extreme events will only get worse. “This is probably just the beginning,” says Professor José Marengo, the lead author of the report. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, and their impact periods are getting shorter.

Let’s hope for a better future where we can tackle these climate challenges together. Stay safe and take care!

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