Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Adapting to the impacts of climate change in mountain regions

Ministers of Environment from Chile, Peru, and Nepal spoke beside a distinguished panel discussing primarily adaptation measures, along with mitigation efforts for climate change in the mountain areas. The Andean region in the nations of Chile and Peru are already seeing the harmful effects of climate change. Dramatic changes in precipitation patterns, water and food shortages, soil degradation, and biodiversity (in general, entire mountain ecosystems) are facing the impacts of climate change, and will require swift action regarding implementing adaptation measures. In the effort to adapt and mitigate these impacts, scientific support is essential for identifying the effects and vulnerabilities climate change imposes on the mountain regions. Mountains provide water through their glaciers and snowmelt, protect water basins (water used for energy supply, irrigation, and human consumption), soil quality, biodiversity, and promote economic activity in the tourism sector, all of which are being threatened by impacts of climate change. The Climate Change Adaptation Program (PPAC from its Spanish acronym) is a “bilateral initiative” of the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation working with innovative approaches for adaptation at local and national levels. In Peru, the implementation phase of PPAC consists of a three year timeframe (Feb 2009-Jan 2012), in which it will build up the capacity of regional and local stakeholders in the mountain regions of Peru to tackle the impacts of climate change. So far, PPAC has identified the following observations adaptation measures need to address regarding water resources in the Huacrahuacho region (near Cuzco); 42% of the population lack access to water services, the Huacrahuacho watershed is diminishing at a rate of 12mm each year, increased precipitation intensity (correlating with erosive potential of the soils), and inequitable water access for irrigation purposes within the surrounding communities. These scientific observations help determine the unsustainability of economic activities and help redefine development and adaptation strategies. The PPAC is targeting the reduction of vulnerabilities in the context of communities and families, and therefore “pose a transformative dimension”. This method is the only way to help adaptation measures contribute to increasing quality of life and the development of local populations. More to come soon!

1 comment:

  1. In September, I was in the Andes in Ecuador and heard similar accounts of the changes in precipitation and how this and other unusual weather events were negatively impacting agriculture -- the main occupation of people in this region. As Garth notes, "dramatic changes in …. soil degradation, and biodiversity (in general, entire mountain ecosystems)" were extremely evident. A lack of good conservation measures, the impact of environmental stressors other than climate change, and unsustainable agricultural practices all contribute to a decreased resilience or ability to adapt to climate change.

    A local non-profit based in Emmaus (Mountains of Hope, ) is working with the indigenous people in the northern highland region in Ecuador to teach them about organic, bio-intensive agricultural methods that will improve soil quality, lessen the use of synthetic chemicals, and enhance diversity and the nutritional quality (and safety) of the food produced. The digging and plot designed methods conserve water and should be better able to handle weather extremes.

    In addition, with Ecuador’s relatively new constitution that gives rights to nature, the government is working with farmers to educate them about conservation practices to accompany the more sustainable farming methods. This could be a great benefit as this region of the Andes begins to adapt to climate change.