ECLAC Report Examines Vulnerability to Climate Change of LAC Coasts
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A UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report analyzing the vulnerability and exposure to climate change of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) coastline finds not only are some Caribbean islands fully exposed, but other countries have important vulnerabilities in terms of population centers, crops, key infrastructure and important ecosystems.

21 May 2012: The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has published a report that examines the vulnerability and exposure to climate change of the 72,182 km coastline of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

The report looks at individual five km long, 20 km wide strips of LAC coastline, analyzing the physical, socioeconomic and ecological characteristics of coastal zones according to variables such as land type and use, crop areas or ecosystem zones, population density, urban areas, infrastructure (roads, rail lines, ports, etc.), and the type of coast. This analysis of geospatial data from various sources allows for the analysis of coastal vulnerability at the country level according to the variables critical to each country.

The study points out that for certain small island States, such as Aruba, the Bahamas, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Turks and Caicos, and the Virgin Islands, over 95% of the territory is within 20 km of the coast. It notes that in the case of the Turks and Caicos, 100% of the territory is ten meters or less above sea level, while for the Bahamas and Cayman Islands, the figure is 70%, making these islands particularly vulnerable to climate-related impacts such as extreme weather events, sea level rise and coastal erosion. Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Mexico also have large coastal areas under the ten meter elevation mark. Brazil has the most inhabitants living in such zones, but Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and the US Virgin Islands having the highest population density in vulnerable zones.

Regarding infrastructure, the report finds that Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Cuba and Mexico are the most vulnerable. In terms of crops grown along the coast, Brazil and Mexico have the greatest total areas vulnerable to possible climatic impacts, but the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Guatemala and Suriname have the greatest vulnerability in terms of percentages of their national crop output. As for ecosystems, the report highlights that the most vulnerable in terms of total economic valuation are located in Brazil and Mexico.

This report is the second in a series of four to be released in 2012 as part of an ECLAC project on climate change and LAC coastal regions financed by the Government of Spain. The first analyzed and provided an atlas of the current physical conditions and changes detected in key coastal variables. The third will detail probable climate change impacts, and the fourth will evaluate the climate change risks faced by LAC coasts. [ECLAC Press Release (Spanish)] [Publication: Effects of Climate Change on the Coast of Latin America and the Caribbean: Vulnerability and Exposure (In Spanish)]

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