Climate crisis in South America
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March 7, 2023
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Climate crisis in South America

Discover the climate crisis in South America and its impacts on the region. Learn more in our latest blog post on 15rock.

A tale of two cities

Whilst Europe and North America have been relatively protected from the effects of climate change in comparison to the rest of the continents, South America in particular continues to be hit hard by our changing climate. Many of its countries often lack the infrastructure necessary to handle the disasters triggered from climate change. South America has historically been prone to floods droughts and heatwaves. All of them have slowly started to be magnified by climate change, increasing their intensity and frequency. The drought in 2020 in Brazil affected over 15 million people alone, who found themselves experiencing water shortage and food insecurity.

The wildfires in 2018 which destroyed the Amazon also damaged the surrounding ecosystems irreparably, therefore affecting the climate of the continent as a whole. Coastal communities have also been very negatively affected by rising sea levels.

In Brazil, for instance, the city of Recife has experienced an increase in the frequency and severity of floods, with some areas of the city being permanently flooded due to sea level rise. The locals overwhelmingly relied on fishing and tourism to make a living, activities that were made impossible due to the frequency of floods, thus threatening their livelihood directly. These are just the immediate effects of the rising sea levels. They also cause long term damage by wiping out mangrove forests which play a major role in softening the impact of other natural disasters.

Poverty in heatwaves

A recent study concluded that due to the ongoing heatwave in the continent, the effects of the year long drought that has been affecting the broader region, have been magnified. This has lead to deadly wildfires in Chile and poor crop yields in Argentina, which has directly effected the livelihoods of local argentines who were primarily dependent on their crops. This has caused agricultural exports to be reduced by 61%, like a bullet shot straight through an already ongoing recession. It is estimated that 42 % of the population in Argentina lives below the poverty line. One can imagine how catastrophic the situation will be as climate change becomes worse and starts affecting the region more. The heatwaves are becoming ever longer and more intense, making life particularly difficult for elderly citizens and young children, even in those major cities which aren’t wholly dependent on crops.

Despite not being a major contributor to the climate crisis, people in South America are already suffering the consequences for climate change. The need to take action is more urgent than ever. Study after study has shown that climate change is driven by fossil fuel emissions. The problem isn’t unknown and neither are the solutions. The consequences to inaction, however, are largely unknown to a lot of us who are yet to be hit by them. We need to take note of what’s happening in a global scale and start pressuring lawmakers and companies before it becomes too late.