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NEWS - Climate Change in Baja California

A new study sponsored by the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) and three other Mexican academic institutions lays out some of the possible consequences of climate change in the ecologically-fragile Baja California Peninsula.

Among the predictions are stronger hurricanes, changes in arroyo flows, loss of vegetation and soils, accelerated desertification, and negative impacts on fisheries and biodiversity.

“All this implies impacts on agriculture, tourism, plant and animal life and human health, such as an increase in cases of dengue,” said Antonina Ivanova Boncheva, UABSC researcher and member of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

Climate change researchers like Ivanova have noted many implications for Baja’s ecosystems, including delays in the annual migration of gray whales and variations in the harvests of lobsters and abalone. Other changes identified by researchers could include a “tropicalization” of the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula, acidification of the ocean, higher sea levels, and greater amounts of salinity in groundwater supplies.

Sharing an environment similar to Baja, the coastal zone of Sonora across the Sea of Cortez could also witness the changes analyzed in the UACBS report. In contrast to a drier north, regions of southern Mexico could see more rain in the future. In recent days, the southern states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Veracruz have been pounded by relentless rains and flooding.

Abel Trejo Gonzalez, director of the Oaxaca State Institute of Public Education, said the state will require extra support from the federal government's disaster relief fund to cope with a weather-wrought crisis.

Flood-related emergencies have prompted suspensions of classes in hundreds of schools, mass evacuations and the mobilization of the Mexican army. In the Papalopan River Basin of the Veracruz-Oaxaca borderlands, at least 200,000 people have been impacted by rising waters. Damages to more than 70,000 acres of crops have been reported in Veracruz alone.

“Solidarity with the victims of the rains,” appealed a writer identified as Shara Martinez Vera on La Jornada’s website. “Veracruz communities are submerged under water, and thousands of families are left with nothing. Everything is lost!” Separately, the Baja California study termed climate change an issue of “strategic national and international security,” and called for urgent action to mitigate the effects.

Currently, Baja California Sur and more than a dozen other Mexican states are considering state climate action plans similar to the one unveiled by Veracruz in 2008, with the support of the federal Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources and National Ecology Institute. According to Ivanova, preliminary elements of the Baja plan could be presented at the next world climate summit scheduled for Cancun later this year.

Besides the UABCS, other institutions that participated in the Baja climate change study included Mexico’s Northwest Center for Biological Research, the National Polytechnic Institute and the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada, Baja California.

Sources: La Jornada, September 5 and 6, 2010. Articles by Octavio Velez Ascencio, Andres Timoteo Morales and Notimex. El Sur, September 5, 2010. Article by Claudia Venalonzo and Noe Aguirre. El Universal, September 3, 2010. Article by Gladys Rodriguez.

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