Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Climate Change Impacts in Peru - Some of the Basics

Ice Caps (drinking water, hydroelectric power, farming, the entire existence of Lima)

Peru is in a pickle, guys. With 28 of the 34 different climates represented within its borders, this ecologically diverse and fragile country is now listed as the 3rd most vulnerable to climate change. In the past 25 years, the temperature in the Andes has increased by 70 percent more than the global average, with temperatures increasing more rapidly the higher in elevation you go.

What this means is that the glaciers in the Andes are seriously screwed, resulting in a country-wide cascade of screwing. The majority of the world’s tropical glaciers are in the peaks of the Peruvian Andes. Not just a pretty face, these glaciers also regulate water availability during the dry season and supply the Pacific coast (more than half of Peru’s population) with water. As temperatures rise, the glaciers are rapidly melting, with many likely to disappear in the next 50 years—along with the majority of the population’s main source for drinking water, irrigation, and power generation.

Rain & Drought (landslides, erosion, flooding, and the screwing continues)

Perú is already experiencing an exacerbation of both heavy rains in the rainy season and drought in the summer. This means swelling rivers, flooding, soil erosion, landslides, loss of agricultural land and biodiversity, and disruption of vertical communities that the Quechua have relied on to survive. This can have disastrous impacts on communities that supplement their incomes selling to the throngs of tourists to Machu Picchu. If severe flooding and landslides temporarily wipe out part of the trail to Perú's most famous tourist destination (as has happened in recent years), that wipes out extra income--generally women's income. As the random spray paint artist pointed out in a previous post, "Tourism is Colonization." It's an unequal relationship of dependency.

Heat & Cold (the alpacas are dying)

That's right. The alpacas are dying--that is, the ones that are even getting born. Studies have shown that highland communities are experiencing far fewer alpaca births per year, and the ones that are born are seeing some harsh fates: Last year, Perú's government declared a state of emergency for the Andean region of Puno when freezing temperatures killed over 250,000 alpacas. 250,000. Which, of course, cuts into their main source of livelihood (and I'm not talking about the baby alpaca pictures in the Plaza de Armas.)

And that's just the basics, leaving out how mining is poisoning the existing water system, skirmishes over water access are already being fought, how hydropower is syphoning entire lakes dry, etc etc. But it's late, and it's only the first week, and we don't need to get into all that. So here are some happy people at Inti Raymi:

Let's hope that several generations from now, this festival will still be celebrated with the same splendor and joy.


  1. Perhaps you and Jeff could bring your results to the September protests in New York with Bill McKibben and gang. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/a-call-to-arms-an-invitation-to-demand-action-on-climate-change-20140521

    1. I concur. Cassie and I will be pretty puppy-deprived by September. :)

  2. Hey, Paul! While that sounds quite enticing, I think that by the time Jeff and I land back in the States in September, we'll probably need to be home-and-dog-bound for a while. (Not to mention, student loan payments will be on the horizon and I'll need to get my hands on a semi-regular income.) But thanks for the suggestion; that's certainly something I would like to do in the future.