White repeated natural disasters, Central America looking for ways to escape a projection of calamities that has cost tens of billions of dollars and threatens misery to generations yet unborn.
“Climate change is not a hypothesis is something that is hitting us very hard and this is the central issue (…) for all countries in the region,” said Minister of Environment of El Salvador, Herman Rosa Chávez , told AFP hours before a regional summit to discuss the issue.
Regularly hit by earthquakes and capricious activity of hundreds of volcanoes, the region faces now also the threat of famine the result of devastating droughts caused by climate change, and will alternate with more frequent floods and landslides.
In the last forty years of the twentieth century natural disasters in the isthmus left 57,000 dead, 123,000 wounded and 10 million displaced, according to a study by experts from European and Latin American universities.
Only Hurricane Mitch and other natural disasters between 1996 and 1999 cost U.S. $ 16,000 million and caused a reduction of 1.3% of GDP in the area.
But these figures are just a foretaste. By 2050, losses could exceed 10% of regional GDP and 54% by 2100, according to research by the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) entitled “The Economics of Climate Change”.
“The initial cost estimate to 2100 (…), measurable cumulative impacts based on agriculture, water resources, biodiversity, hurricanes, storms and floods, equivalent to 73,000 million dollars (…) approximately 54% Regional GDP 2008, “records the study.
With 43 million inhabitants, half of them in poverty, trying to rebuild every few years the infrastructure destroyed by rain, volcanoes, wind or earthquakes becomes an impossible task.
The biggest concern is that States take the meager resources of health and education budgets to build a third time in a decade, the same bridge or the same water plant.
The threat is such that the summit of Central American Integration System (SICA) on Friday will devote much of his agenda, competing for the attention of experts and political drama of insecurity, the biggest concern for millions of Central Americans who survive a region with similar rates of violent deaths in war zones.
In this context Central America opened Thursday in San Salvador to Climate Database, defined by the project’s technical director, Norman Avila, like the “Google of the American Meteorological information.”
This tool, which is fed with data from a hundred and fifty stations in seven countries, is another way to deal with “extreme weather events (which) are the main threat to Central America,” said Patricia Ramirez, of the Committee Regional Water Resources.
The challenge of climate change is “how we prepare the region to better address this problem to reduce the risks,” said Minister Salvador Chavez.
In the last three decades, according to ECLAC, disasters recorded an estimated annual growth of 5% over the decade of the seventies. In the last 20 years the hurricanes that hit the area increased fivefold over the 20 preceding and floods tripled.
According to CEPA, L “climate change is a serious threat to Central American societies for their many projected impacts on the population and the productive sectors”, and in fiscal terms “affect the public finances for generations.”
“For us it is essential to set a position of vulnerability we have, to be compensated. We are not generators of climate change, but we’re paying,” he told AFP advisor Ministry of Environment of Guatemala Carlos Noriega.
Noriega found that “countries that generate climate change must be in solidarity with the region (and) recognize the damage we have suffered in the last decade.”
In 2009, prior to COP 15 in Copenhagen, the Central American countries were estimated at 105,000 million dollars the damage suffered by climate change.