San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Climate change costly for Central American countries

The Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) warned on Wednesday that in the worst-case scenario, a change of the earth’s surface temperature by 2 to 5.4 degrees would cause $73 billion in damage to Central American countries by the end of the century.

ECLAC’s annual report, the Economics of Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean, labeled rising temperatures as among the greatest economic threats to the region.

“ECLAC calculates that, by 2100 in Central America, the rise in atmospheric and sea temperature, declining and unstable rainfall, rising sea levels, droughts and hurricanes will have repercussions on production, infrastructure, livelihoods and health and safety of the population, as well as weakening the environment’s capacity to provide vital services and resources,” the commission wrote in a statement.

To determine the cost, the report considered climate change’s impact on four main areas: agriculture, water resources, biodiversity and increased frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms. The $73 billion to attend to these damages through 2100 is 54 percent of Central America’s 2008 GDP, according to the report.

Although Central America is one of the smallest contributors of global greenhouse gas emissions, the report states that the region is “extremely vulnerable to climate change as a result of its socio-economic situation, its exposure to extreme events and its high level of biodiversity.”

Central America claims four of the lowest ranked countries on the Human Development Index in the Western Hemisphere – Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – and is a region heavily dependent on agriculture, a sector that is particularly vulnerable to changes in climate.

According to the report, temperature increases through 2100 could lead to a 10 percent drop in crop production across the isthmus. Livestock production could see a 13 percent slide in production under the worst-case scenario.

ECLAC’s report was issued during the second week of the 16th meeting of member parties to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancún, Mexico. Negotiations wrap up this Friday and delegates in attendance hope the talks will lead to a binding global treaty to combat climate change at the 18th meeting of the parties in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

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