COP 23

Latin America

“Teaching environmental economics to students helps them connect to climate actions!” — Elsa Maria Cardona Santos, Mexico, Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research

*this is not one of my five blogs for the final assignment

“I left a journalism career to explore how to more effectively communicate science and environmental news.”— Ione Anderson, Brazil, Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research


The economics of climate change is simple. Ask Elsa Santos of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (pictured above) and she will tell you the same.

When we burn fossil fuels, we emit CO2 into the atmosphere, and this leads to many harmful effects (global warming, drought, sea level rise, natural disasters…you know the drill.) These effects are known as negative externalities, an economics term meaning unintended consequences, occur because those who produce the majority of emissions do not pay the consequences, and those who are harmed are not fairly compensated.

Latin America is among the countries who are disproportionately harmed by climate change.

Effects of Climate Change

According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Latin America will experience the following effects of climate change:

  • Savannization: the process of tropical rainforests in the Amazons turning in to savannahs from humidity
  • Losses in biodiversity, extinction of species
  • agricultural productivity will decrease, hunger will increase
  • drought
  • sea level rise
  • coral bleaching

Specifically, Central American countries and Mexico rely heavily on subsistence farming.  Temperature rise and desertification will reduce agricultural productivity.

Additionally, the rural population living in the Amazon Basin are very vulnerable to climate effects. For example, in Brazil, only 58% of these people have access to drinking water.

However, due to additional social issues (like health, education, poverty), governments do not have the resource to take adaptation or mitigation measures. Much of the national response is not that effective. There are many inconsistent warning systems at the local level.


National Perception of Climate Change

People in different nations perceive their vulnerability to climate change differently. For example, Bolivians are aware of the threat and impact to their individual needs (ie relationship between climate change and food supply.) while Peruvians perceive the impacts in terms of security and social cohesion.

Leiserowitz’s team found that people in Latin America perceive climate change as a greater threat when they understand that humans are the major cause.

Highlighting Local Solutions

  • Ione Anderson promotes IAI research activities to the United Nations.  
  • She developed a newspaper for the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit “Ocean Planet” and developed other outreach programs that promoted ocean conservation at the National Museum of Natural History.
  • She also produced a  free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the Impacts of Climate Change in Latin America in Spanish, which has reached over 7.5 thousand participants. MOOC created in response to a demand for high-level scientific educational outreach products in Spanish in Latin America to support SDG 13 Target 13.3 to “improve education, awareness raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.”

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