Thursday, June 20, 2024

Mexicans feel climate change first hand

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Mexico has already experienced extremely high temperatures this year. Here, a merciless sun rises over the capital Mexico City, which recorded its highest ever temperature of 34.7 degrees on 25 May. Photo: Marco Ugarte / AP / NTB

Of NTB | 31.05.2024 05:33:00

Weather: People moved to El Bosque on the Gulf of Mexico in the 1980s to fish and build a community. Now climate change has turned their lives upside down. Flooding, driven by rapid sea-level rise and increasingly brutal winter storms, has destroyed large parts of the village.

Eroded shorelines have meant that only the ruins of houses remain at the water’s edge.

Just two years ago, more than 700 people lived in El Bosque. Today, the sea has wiped out more than half of the houses, as well as the primary school, the kindergarten and a main road. The residents have been forced to move, and according to the environmental group Greenpeace, El Bosque is the first community in Mexico to be officially recognized as displaced by climate change.

– We hear about climate change all the time, but we never thought it would affect us, says 34-year-old Cristy Echeverria, who is one of the many from El Bosque who have lost their home.

This year, heat waves have already ravaged large parts of Mexico. Since March alone, 48 deaths related to intense heat waves have been recorded in the country. Last year, 419 heat-related deaths were recorded in the hot season, which runs from March to October.

Scientists have warned that increasing heat in the coming weeks could mean even more heat records.

It got a lot of attention when about eighty howler monkeys fell dead from the trees because it was so hot. Other monkeys were rescued by locals, while some were taken to local vets, who fought to save the medium-sized primates.

Even Mexico City – which usually has a temperate climate because it is 2,240 meters above sea level – recorded its highest ever temperature of 34.7 degrees on 25 May.

The heat and less rainfall than normal last year creates fears of new and greater problems with water shortages.

The average annual availability of water per capita in Mexico has already fallen by 68 percent since 1960, according to the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness.

The government says it has offset the impact by planting one million hectares of trees, which Lopez Obrador has called the world’s most important reforestation program.

However, Pablo Ramirez from Greenpeace Mexico believes that the country’s authorities are not pursuing a policy that can offset the serious climate consequences climate change has for the country – consequences he warns will only get worse.

Presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum, who in the polls is tipped to win the election, has promised to invest billions of dollars in clean energy.

– We will speed up the energy transition, promises Sheinbaum, himself a researcher and contributing author for the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change.

Sheinbaum would have a different approach than incumbent President Lopez Obrador on the energy issue, says Professor Pamela Starr at the University of Southern California.

– She will encourage much more active investment in clean energy, says Starr.

Both candidates agree that major changes are necessary to manage Mexico’s fresh water supply, which has been severely affected in large parts of the country as a result of a prolonged drought. The promises involve more efficient reuse of water for irrigation and improvement of the infrastructure for the water systems.

The campaign promises give Cristy Echeverria from El Bosque little comfort.

– We are not responsible for everything that happens, but we pay the price for it, she says.

– And – we won’t be the only ones, she adds.

El Bosque has become a clear symbol of the climate crisis, which affects Mexico – in different ways. Everything from severe drought, water shortages in some areas and floods and forest fires in others.

The state of Tabasco is one of the areas in Mexico that has been hardest hit by this year’s heat waves, with temperatures in the state reaching 40 degrees.

Despite international pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, incumbent President Lopez Obrador has promoted fossil fuel production during his six-year term – because he has wanted to ensure Mexico’s energy independence.

On Sunday, Mexicans go to the polls to elect a new president, and the heat waves have also raised the temperature in the climate debate.

The opposition’s presidential candidate Xochitl Galvez, for his part, has stated that Mexico must stop depending on fossil fuels. She has proposed closing some refineries.

(© NTB)

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