3 consequences of climate change that are already felt in Chile

According to the latest IPCC report, presented on October 8 in Incheon, South Korea, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it states that it is necessary to limit the global temperature advance before this increase exceeds 1.5 ° C .

However, the phenomenon is already wreaking havoc in many parts of the planet, including Chile. Four specialists establish what these consequences are already felt in the country.

Shortage and care of water

It is estimated that the problem affects approximately 15% of the Chilean population . “Many communities are supplied by water trucks, not only in the arid areas of the north, but also in the center and south of the country, which is a worrisome indicator. This impacts on forestry and agricultural activities, “says Fernando Farías, the Chilean specialist convened to participate in the IPCC climate change reports.

In 2017, the alluvions that occurred in San José del Maipo forced Aguas Andinas to carry out an emergency cut in the supply to 30 communes in the Metropolitan Region. The measure was driven due to the high turbidity rates recorded in the water. “These warm and unexpected rainfalls are a typical sign of climate change . The rain ends up being a problem and not a benefit, “adds Farías.

The specialist highlights the efforts made by the health companies in Chile in terms of channeling and efficient water care in civil works. It also highlights the action of the Ministry of Public Works for the adaptation of infrastructure development to the needs of climate change. “It’s a very positive signal that I have not seen in other countries,” he says.

Increase in droughts and decrease in rainfall:

Pablo Sarricolea, professor of the Department of Geography of the University of Chile, observes that droughts at the national level may be more prolonged and spatially more extensive as a result of global warming. In effect, large forest fires generate problems for ecosystems and their nearby populations. “The air pollution in the fires of 2017 was very high, with emergency values ​​higher than those declared for Santiago,” he says.

In this line, Forestry Engineer Alex Fajardo explains that in 2017, 600,000 hectares of pine and eucalyptus plantations were lost and that currently there are large areas of burned land that could never be recovered.

” For approximately 50 years, Chile has been experiencing a decrease in rainfall in the central zone at a rate of 5% per decade . If in the future there are no changes in relation to global warming, we could expect a 30% drop by the end of the century, “explains meteorologist Roberto Rondanelli, from the Department of Geophysics at the University of Chile.

The expert warns that the decrease in rainfall is associated with an increase in temperature that is more accentuated in the mountains . As a result, the snow melts earlier than expected, with fast flowing rivers and consequently drier in the summer.

The hydrology of Chile depends largely on the snow falling in the mountain range . If it were for precipitation in the valleys, Santiago probably would not have enough water to sustain its productive activities or human consumption, Roberto Rondanelli adds.

Storm surge and sea level rise:

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change identified low-lying coastal areas as a vulnerability in Chilean geography.

The increase in sea level, induced by the increase in temperature due to natural phenomena and global warming, can have serious incidents in the 6,435 kilometers of coastline in the country.

According to Humberto Merino, director of the specialized magazine Enfoque, the main derivations of climate change in the coastal zone are: an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere and the ocean , an increase in the mean sea level, intensification of storms and waves, changes in the rainfall regime, changes in ocean currents, subsurface seismic upwelling, salt water intrusion. This translates into biotic impacts (nature and ecosystems), landscape, agriculture, water resources, aquaculture, infrastructure and loss of human, animal and plant life.

“I do not dare to say something definite, but we must be prepared to avoid coastal erosion derived from tidal waves. Although they are not yet attributable to climate change, they have been more frequent in recent years, “reflects Pablo Sarricolea.