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Vital Climate Change Graphics for Latin America and the Caribbean

Originally published


New Report Puts Climate Change in Graphic Detail for Latin America and the Caribbean

Vital Climate Change Graphics shows impact of changing conditions and possibilities for climate action

Cancun (Mexico), 6 December 2010 - The climate change challenges facing Latin America and the Caribbean have been laid out in graphic detail in a new publication by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Using charts, graphs and maps, Vital Climate Change Graphics for Latin America and the Caribbean depicts the major signs of climate change in the region, its physical impacts (such as environmental damage and a rise in diseases), as well as calculating current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and possibilities for mitigation.

Among dozens of climate facts and figures, the report shows that the number of people in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by extreme temperatures, forest fires, droughts, storms and floods grew from 5 million in the 1970s to more than 40 million from 2000 to 2009. Overall, adverse weather conditions have cost the region more than US$40 billion in the last ten years. For Mexico the estimated annual cost of dealing with the effects of climate change will be 6.22% of current GDP net present value by 2100 using an annual discount rate of 4%. Such costs will intensify budget constraints across Latin America and the Caribbean and may complicate attempts to reduce poverty and to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

The report, which was produced in collaboration with the Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and UNEP's Polar Research Centre GRID-Arendal, also forecasts future climate scenarios for the region. Graphics show that by 2050, rises in the temperature of ocean surfaces will result in more frequent bleaching of coral reefs, with a negative impact on tourism and fishing.

Climate change has effects on health, not only through heat waves and waterborne diseases, but also as a result of the expansion of geographical areas conducive to the transmission of vector-borne diseases. The report shows that in 1970, only a small number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean were home to mosquitoes that transmit yellow fever, dengue fever and malaria, but that by 2002, the vast majority of the region was affected by these tropical diseases.

Although the contribution of Latin America and the Caribbean to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions represents only 8% of global emissions -excluding those related to land use change-, the expected changes in climate during the present century are certain to have a significant impact on the region.

Drawing on historical analysis of variables such as temperature, precipitation and sea levels, Vital Climate Change Graphics for Latin America and the Caribbean outlines for decision makers, academics and the general public the effects and causes of these climate change phenomenon. The report shows that countries in the region will require major resources and assistance to reduce their vulnerability and enhance their resilience to the harmful impacts of climate change.

At the same time, the report highlights the growing need for regional coordination and sharing of best practices in defining sustainable policies, technologies and investment options to reduce GHG emissions, through expanding the sources of clean and renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and adopting energy-saving measures.

With regard to the region's forest resources, the graphics show the need for rapid advances in reducing emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation, in order to reverse the prevailing negative trends and deal successfully with a key challenge to the region's prosperity by working to counteract the effects of climate change.

In the three main areas of the report - manifestations of climate change, effects of climate change and GHG emissions and mitigation measures - many countries in the region have already initiated concrete policies, investment strategies and solutions to deal with the challenge. These success stories and best practices must now be expanded and incorporated at the national and regional levels, in order to foster growth, job creation and sustainable development strategies to help combat poverty.

Key messages

Any solution to climate change, as a global problem, must be based on the participation of all countries, with recognition of common and differentiated, responsibilities. Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region will have to gradually make the transition to a sustainable development strategy that pursues a low-carbon path and promotes equity and social inclusion.

Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole emitted fewer tons of CO2 per capita than the world average. However, when considering total emissions and including land-use change, LAC rates poorly compared to other regions with regard to emissions of CO2 equivalent per US$1 million of GDP. The region emits 1,152 tonnes of CO2 equivalent for every US$1 million of GDP compared to 481 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per US$ 1 million emitted by the OECD countries.

The effects of climate change in the region are already significant (albeit with differences from one country to another), particularly in terms of the agricultural sector, the health of the population, the availability of water, tourism, urban infrastructure, and biodiversity and ecosystems.

Latin America and the Caribbean has seen a recent increase in extreme climatic events, and with it a rise in the number of people affected. The estimated cost of damage from these extreme climate events in the last ten years exceeds US$40 billion.

For Central America, estimates of the economic costs of climate change, accumulated up to 2100 (using a discount rate of 0.5% - based on the impact on the agricultural sector, biodiversity, water resources, and the damage from hurricanes, storms and floods) are equivalent to approximately 54% of the 2008 subregional GDP under scenario A2, and 32% of its 2008 GDP under scenario B2.

At present, LAC has 1003 projects in various stages, within the framework of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The countries in the region with the greatest number of CDM projects are Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Colombia. The largest number of CDM projects (87% of the total) are in the areas of renewable energies and methane reduction.

Between 2000 and 2007, the region received, from Official Development Assistance (ODA), approximately US$1.4 billion (in current dollars) to combat climate change.

The importance of forests with regard to climate change lies in its great potential for mitigation. Panama, Bolivia and Paraguay are part of the UN-REDD programme that helps developing countries formulate and implement national REDD+ strategies. In addition, a number of countries in the region are carrying out conservation and forest management initiatives.

Climate projections under the different emissions scenarios indicate that forms of production, distribution and consumption must be profoundly altered, in order to move towards economies with lower levels of CO2 emissions and greater social inclusion.

Notes to Editors

The full report - Vital Climate Change Graphics for Latin America and the Caribbean - can be downloaded from:

About UNEP

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as an inter-governmental organization that is a world leader on environmental issues, is the recognized authority for knowledge on the current status of, and trends in, the global environment. The mission of UNEP is to provide leadership and foster collaboration in caring for the environment, while inspiring, informing and empowering nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising future generations (


The Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), together with the other divisions of ECLAC, is active in assessing progress on public policies, instruments and institutions dedicated to promoting the simultaneous growth of economic, environmental and social capital in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and in particular performs analysis on the economics of climate change (

About UNEP/GRID-Arendal

UNEP/GRID-Arendal is a collaborative centre of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) located in southern Norway. The mission of UNEP/GRID-Arendal, which was founded in 1989, is to provide environmental data, communication services and training for handling information and conducting evaluations. Working with partners in various countries and regions, the objective of UNEP/GRID-Arendal is to facilitate free access to, and exchange of, information to support decision-making and to ensure a sustainable future (

For further information, please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, Mobile: +254 733 632 755 or when traveling +41 795 965 737, E-mail:

UNEP Newsdesk/Nairobi,, Tel. +254 20 7623088

Jan Kappen, UNEP Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Tel. +507 305 3160, Email:

Or Graciela Metternicht, UNEP Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Tel +507 305 3150,, Email