GLOBAL WARMING | 10/5/2009 12:00:00 AM
Flooded and thirsty
Colombia is one of the least contaminating countries, but it will be one of the most affected by global warming with serious consequences for its economy. If nothing is done, disaster will be inevitable
Even though Colombia lacks a big industry and its energy is clean, that doesn’t mean it won’t be affected by global warming. Paradoxically, it is one of the most affected by something that is not strictly its responsibility. The greenhouse effect is the phenomenon through which the gasses from combustion are retained in the higher levels of the earth’s atmosphere, avoiding the heat of the sun spreading, which heats up the surface and drives climate out of control.
Colombia only produces 0.37% of the world’s gas emissions which causes the greenhouse effect, while the United States and China are responsible of the 20% each, European Union contributes with the 14% and Russia and India each 5%. But some strange things are happening in Colombia.
The hydrology, meteorology and environmental studies institute (Ideam), organism that has registered for 30 years issues concerning rivers, uplands, and glaciers of Colombia, holds the evidence.
Ricardo José Lozano, director of the entity, says Ideam has discovered a change in the historical climate behavior, with an annual increase of 0.02°C and at the same time, a decrease of rains. This, according to the experts, is quite serious. Actually, due to that tendency, 3% of the area of the national glaciers is being lost annually. Ideam estimates that if this continues, in 2035 Colombia will no longer have snow-capped mountains. One of the most evident damages of climate change is evident in the glacier area of the Sierra in Santa Marta (Northern Magdalena province). This not only involves loosing tourism, but the impact on the ecosystem.
Some of the climatic episodes, also show what is happening. The first rain season of 2008, between May and June, increased the levels of the main Colombian rivers, which exceeded the historical amounts. In addition to this, the storms and hailstorms also contribute to elevate the water level and the loss of crops. For example, the coffee production was drastically decreased.
But if what’s happening is worrying, what will come if nothing is done to fight the greenhouse effect will be worse. The last information gathered by the Ideam is outrageous. Colombians could feel the impact in several aspects, like extreme variations, like intense rains in some regions and droughts in some others. Increase of the ocean level in the Pacific and Caribbean coasts with flooding and a gradual increase of the temperature of the air in all of the national territory.
According to calculations made by the Ideam, for the 2070-2100 period, it is estimated that the temperature would rise something between 2°C to 4°C in Colombia. In some cases, it could exceed 4°C. This could affect the harvest of the crops, causing plagues for both human and animals, including the grasses for livestock. In that same period, the annual rain levels will be drastically decreased.
None of the regions will avoid the effects. In the Caribbean region, the frequency and intensity of the hurricanes will increase, the temperature of the ocean will rise causing serious damages on the marine species that would emigrate to find a better habitat.
A defrost of the glaciers, like the one that will occur in the planet, will rise the levels of the ocean water, with important consequences for the coastal population. Colombia has two coasts and 28 islands. Some of the first effects are already being noticed in cities like Cartagena and the island of San Andrés.
The dry areas like the Caribbean, and some Northern provinces, will suffer desertification processes and the degradation of soil. In the Pacific region, the floods will cause a proliferation of diseases such as malaria and dengue and the lack of water in water pipes.
In the Andean region, it is estimated that 56% of its uplands could disappear by 2050. More than 25% of the Colombian population depends on those waters. Furthermore, this would bring an important loss of biodiversity and decrease the hydroelectric power station capacity to produce energy. To make things worse, wildfires would occur more often. In the other regions, due to the increase of rains, there would be a loss of humidity. According to the experts this is one of the most serious effects because of its impact in the rest of the regions, because the wind of the south brings humidity to the mountain ranges.
The picture looks pretty dramatic, but something has to be done. Plans to reduce the impact of this phenomenon on vulnerable communities have to take immediate action. And even though there are still some skeptics that wont believe the true importance of the damages that could occur with the greenhouse effect, truth is that in this case it is better to work before we have something to regret.