Climate change ‘will cost Andes US$30 billion’

Melted glacier in Potato Park, Cusco, Peru Copyright: SciDev.Net/Zoraida Portillo

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Climate change could cost Andean countries US$30 billion per year by 2025, according to a study.

The study was commissioned by the Andean Community of Nations and carried out by the Peruvian University of the Pacific, with the support of specialists from Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.

The figure represents 4.5 per cent of the countries’ combined gross domestic product.

According to Carlos Amat y Leon, Peru’s former agriculture minister and coordinator of the research team, this is equivalent to "the amount that [the Andean] countries devote to public health expenses today".

He adds that the estimated cost could be higher if losses in biodiversity and clean water supply, damage to human health, and El Niño-related impacts are also taken into account.

The researchers extrapolated data from a range of international studies about the economic impact of natural disasters in the four countries, such as floods and avalanches. They analysed the cost of rebuilding houses and infrastructure, as well as the relocation of the affected population, Amat y Leon told SciDev.Net.

They conclude that investment in scientific research is crucial to evaluate changes in Andean and Amazonian ecosystems — namely their effects on biodiversity, economic and social infrastructure — and the development models of the countries themselves.

The study also highlights the key role in the region played by the Andes, which provides ten per cent of global water sources through to its glaciers. Experts say that the melting of glaciers in central Andes has accelerated over the last 25 years.

The researchers say that the Andean countries provide a clear indication of the impact of climate change worldwide in the future, making it the ideal place to try technologies and scientific methods to prevent, reduce and adapt infrastructure to a range of challenges.

The study also predicts that 70 per cent of 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 study was presented at the Summit of Latin American, Caribbean and European countries held in Lima, Peru, last week (15–18 May).