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Extreme weather in Latin America triggers a vicious cycle that increases climate risks

Extreme weather in Latin America triggers a vicious cycle that increases climate risks

HAVANA (Reuters) – Severe weather is wreaking havoc across Latin America, causing billions of dollars in damage and unleashing a vicious cycle that drives demand for fossil fuels and further climate change, the World Meteorological Organization said on Wednesday.

Temperatures have risen at a rate of 0.2°C per decade over the past 30 years – the highest rate on record, according to the State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean 2022 report.

As temperatures rise, extreme weather events become more common, often with unexpected consequences fueling climate change, the report said.

“Protracted drought has reduced hydroelectric power production in large parts of South America, increasing demand for fossil fuels in a region with significant untapped renewable energy potential,” the report stated.

The report noted that wildfires in parts of Latin America in 2022, fueled by dry soils and intense heat, have sent carbon dioxide emissions to the highest level in 20 years, driving up temperatures and increasing the risk of catastrophe.

“Long-term La Nina has been affected by many extreme events but it also bears the hallmark of human-induced climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“The newly arrived El Niño will increase the temperature and bring with it more severe weather.”

Droughts and storms made up the bulk of the $9 billion in economic damage reported in 2022 to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT).

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The WMI report comes amid the Environment and Development Agreement held in Havana and organized by the Group of 77 developing countries that includes China.

Cuba’s Environment Minister Elba Rosa Perez said during the pact’s opening session on Tuesday that the situation has pushed many developing countries to extremes.

“We are facing increasingly strong impacts from climate change, but the decisions adopted in the climate negotiations to implement the Paris Agreement are not progressing at the same rate,” she said.

The 2015 Paris Agreement set a target of keeping warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, but scientists and activists warn more action is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta), Editing by Dave Sherwood and Margarita Choi

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