The Regional Impacts of Climate Change

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6.4. Integrated Analysis of Potential Impacts and Adaptation Options

To fulfill the commitments arising from the UNFCCC, Conference of the Parties (COP) members in Latin America have initiated the preparation of national GHG inventories, with the assistance of the USCSP and the GEF. These inventories generally are associated with the performance of vulnerability studies aimed at defining the potential impacts of climate change on natural and human systems on which the economies and the well-being of the respective national communities rely. The resulting information is designed to assist Latin American governments in better understanding the urgency of developing more and better information on impacts and adaptation strategies; as a tool for minimizing negative impacts and taking the best possible advantage of new opportunities under changing climatic conditions; and for achieving sustainable development practices. Vulnerability and impact assessments and adaptation options should consider interactions and feedbacks among different sectors. Some of the outputs of country studies are reports of vulnerability to climate change in selected areas in different countries. Examples are the case study for Belize (reported in Box 6-4); other case studies cited in the bibliography, such as country studies in Venezuela (Perdomo et al., 1996) and Peru (Teves et al., 1996); and information included in the preliminary report of the National GHG Inventory in Mexico (Gay-García et al., 1996). Another interesting approach, which may be considered as an integrated analysis study with implications for some adaptation options, is summarized in Box 6-5.


Box 6-5. Integrated Analysis and Possible Adaptation Options: Land Use and Climate Change

Considering that, under changing climate conditions, land use is a key factor for agricultural production as well as for environmental preservation, effective land-use regulations would be necessary to reduce the vulnerability of this type of human system to climate change. In this connection, an analysis of trade-offs among productivity, stability, and sustainability in low-output agricultural systems was undertaken by Viglizzo and Roberto (1997). It showed that the productivity of herbage and grain (primary products) clearly exceeds that of milk and beef (secondary products). However, the secondary activities involve processes that are less affected by environmental disturbances, whereas primary product processes are more extractive in terms of soil nutrients and, consequently, less sustainable in the long term. This analysis suggests that different combinations of cropping and cattle activities on agricultural lands may need to be regulated to prevent undesirable effects in regions with different vulnerability to climate change, like Argentina's Pampas.


Climate change under 2xCO2 scenarios is projected to produce economic losses of 0.9-3.1% of Latin America's GDP. These large losses-compared with global (1.1-1.8%) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (1.3-1.9%) loss projections-are explained by the fact that primary production accounts for a higher share of GDP in Latin America (Fankhauser and Tol, 1997); therefore, a large output is directly exposed to climatic influences (IPCC 1996, WG III, Section 6.5.9). It should be noted, however, that many assumptions underlie these best guesses-and that large uncertainties remain.

Many of the impacts of climate change may not be directly revealed in the marketplace. Nonmarket impacts on biodiversity, subsistence agriculture, traditional land-use patterns, and so forth may be no less important than market impacts (IPCC 1996, WG III, Table 6-1 and Section 6.2.1). In addition, the impact of climate change on Latin American ecosystems needs to be considered in parallel with impacts caused by unsustainable land-management practices and the effects of increasing population. In most cases, it is impossible to separate the effects of these impacts, and land-use impacts and population growth are expected to result in more severe changes than are changes in climate. Desertification, for example, is a widespread problem in Latin America arising from human abuse of the land and adverse climate conditions. Even if wetter conditions were to prevail, human-induced desertification could increase the vulnerability of land to desertification and escalate the desertification process (see Section 6.3.1.3).

In most managed ecosystems and human systems, adaptation to climate change in Latin America is not as much an issue of scientific knowledge or technical feasibility as of socioeconomic and cultural factors and political decisions. It is extremely difficult at this stage to analyze the viability of different options because their cost/benefit ratio depends on ecological and social conditions and the integration of local and external markets. In virtually all cases, political measures (e.g., credits, subsidies); educational programs; and interactive communication among experts, policymakers, and stakeholders are needed-especially within local communities-to implement viable adaptation options. Table 6-9 presents a very preliminary summary of possible adaptation options for different sectors within Latin America.



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