Media Center

Press Release


  August 30, 2008

A panel of experts in climate change addressing the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) yesterday discussed the implication of global warming on the livelihoods of the people in the Americas, and recommended Member States to put together programs that will help countries adapt to the new conditions created by this phenomenon.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) Ken Leslie, in attempting to put an economic face to climate change, cited a recent study by the CCCCC in the Caribbean Basin showing that in the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, in 2025 the percentage change in GDP will be 12.2% if no action is taken to reduce or mitigate the effects of climate change. By 2050 it will be 25.8%, and by 2100, 58.4%. Of special concern is the island of Grenada, where by 2025 the percentage change in GDP will be 21.3 % and by 2100, 111.5%.

Leslie went on to state that in terms of food security, a 2° Centigrade rise in temperature will mean a 10-14% reduction in the yield of rice, 14-19% in beans, and up to 22% in maize, “which means that temperature rising is a threat to our food security,” he warned.

In another study, commissioned by the Andean Community of Nations, the CCCCC found out that “climate change could cost Andean countries US$30 million per year by 2025. The document also predicts that 70% of the Andean people will have severe difficulties in accessing clean water sources by 2025. By 2020 about 40 million people will be at risk of losing their water supplies as well as some crops due to the melting of the glaciers and greater desertification of the Andean mountains.”

The second panelist, Alfred H. Grünwaldt, Clean Energy and Climate Change Specialist with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), presented the results of the fourth assessment released in April 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

According to the assessment, climate change will have a significant impact on several areas, such as water, food, energy, health and tourism. This, in turn, will translate into worse conditions for people. For example, the impact of climate change on water will affect ecosystems and biodiversity, agriculture and food security, land use and forestry, human health, water supply, settlements and infrastructure, and the economy in general (insurance, tourism, industry, transportation). In the case of health, Grünwaldt estimated “that the total excess costs for the management of three climate-related diseases (diarrheal disease, malnutrition and malaria) in 2030 would be between US$ $3,000 and $17,000 million in different climate change scenarios. The total investment needs for combating diarrheal disease would be $67 billion, malnutrition $2 billion, and malaria $36 to $50 billion in 2030.”

Katherine E. Bliss, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, referred to the direct and indirect effects of climate change on human health. Citing the same IPCC assessment, Bliss said that despite the difficulty of “directly linking health outcomes to climate issues,” there is enough evidence that “the world is already experiencing some health effects of climate change and global warming. Direct effects include such phenomena as increased heat-related mortality. Indirect effects include the increased vulnerability of some populations to vector-borne diseases due to changes in the vector’s geographical distribution or seasonal life cycle.”

In the Americas, she said, IPCC experts warn that global warming could affect the incidence and distribution of diseases. “For example, in North America, Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks, is found throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic areas of the United States. However, with average temperatures projected to be higher in more northerly areas, Lyme disease may be established in Canada, where it is presently unlikely to be reported. Increased rainfall in the deserts of the southwestern United States may promote the growth of rodent populations, which may carry plague or hantavirus,” reported Bliss.

In his closing remarks, Secretary General Insulza commended the Permanent Representative of Belize to the OAS and President of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Nestor Mendez, for dedicating his “tenure to the promotion of dialogue in the issues of sustainable development and climate change. This is a most outstanding issue not only for the Caribbean but for all of the Americas, and is especially clear the danger for the poorest and most vulnerable countries”. Insulza also thanked CCCCC’s Dr. Ken Leslie “for the excellent welcome and explanations we had during our recent visit to Belize,” and congratulated the institution for their “impressive projects, enhanced capacity of prediction, information and proposal to the member countries by which they can precisely focus their work in prevention.”

Reference: E-325/08