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Increase in deaths: How heat waves affect South America

In a report published by the journal Lancet Countdown, the consequences of high temperatures in South America were analyzed

By Ground report
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Climate change crisis: 2023 on track to become warmest year on record

In a report published by the journal Lancet Countdown, the consequences of high temperatures in South America were analyzed for the first time. One of the findings was the 35% increase in dengue during 2012-2021, compared to 1951-1960.

35% increase in dengue

The document mentioned that “the temperate countries of the Southern Cone are very vulnerable to the serious effects of this viral disease, driven mainly by rapid urbanization. Climatic suitability for dengue transmission increased by 11.5% for Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito) and by 12.0% for Aedes albopictus (tiger mosquito) from 1951–60 to 2012–21″.

But the growth of this viral disease was not the only thing that happened in South America due to the heat: so did the number of deaths, which rose 160% between 2017-2021 and 2000-2004.

"The adverse effects are accelerating and disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, a trend that will only continue if we do not take immediate measures," Peruvian doctor Stella M. Hartinger, director of the project said.

The report brings together 25 indicators that speak of the impacts of climate change on health and also mentions the benefits that could be obtained if lasting solutions are applied. One of the problems, for example, is the risk represented by the increase in temperatures in children under one year of age and adults over 65.

Forest fires increased

Since the year 2000, the number of deaths, for this reason, has increased in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela. However, compared to the year 2000, the countries where this indicator has grown the most have been Ecuador, with 1477%; Guyana with 328%, and Chile with 225%.

Forest fires are also a problem since nine of the 12 countries analyzed by the report presented an increase in the days of exposure to fires. 

"At a global level, people of vulnerable ages were exposed to 3.7 billion more hot days during 2021 than annually between 1986-2005," said the study in which Chile tops the list, with 60 days of exposure during 2018-2022, and 38 days between 2001-2004

Climate Change impacts and responses in South America

For its part, it should be remembered that the outlook in Uruguay was marked by forest fires during the first days of 2022, with around 37,000 hectares destroyed in the Paysandú and Río Negro regions.

Significant crop losses were also reported last year. In Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) there were 159 municipalities that declared an emergency due to a drought that began in November 2021.

The same thing happened in Rosario, in southern Argentina, where the rains almost did not arrive during 2021 and this meant losses in a city where close to 80% of the country's agricultural exports are concentrated.

It is there that the Lancet report mentions the delay in the adoption of clean energy that has led to a dependence of some households on the use of "dirty fuels." It has also generated energy poverty and has increased levels of air pollution, which would have direct repercussions on the health of the inhabitants.

However, of all the countries in South America, Brazil is the only one that has developed a National Adaptation Plan for health, within the framework of climate change, until 2021.

Other territories, such as Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina reported having them ready, but they have not yet been presented or are in the development stage

Forest fires and Droughts bring crop losses

Forest fires in Uruguay destroyed around 37,000 hectares of land, while in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, significant crop losses due to drought were reported in 159 municipalities. In Rosario, Argentina, where most of the country's agricultural exports are concentrated, the lack of rain during 2021 caused significant losses.

The Lancet report highlights the delay in the adoption of clean energy in South American countries, leading to household dependence on "dirty fuels", which generates energy poverty and increases air pollution levels with direct repercussions on health.

Brazil is the only country in South America that has developed a National Adaptation Plan for health, within the framework of climate change, until 2021. Other territories, such as Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina reported having them ready, but they have not made. They have not yet been presented or are in the development stage.

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