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Colombia and Central America face “serious” climate risks, U.S. warns

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Colombia and several Central American countries are “enormously vulnerable” to the effects of the climate crisis and cannot adapt to it. At the same time, Mexico and Brazil are better prepared to face these changes.

This is one of the conclusions of four reports published Thursday by the U.S. government on the relationship between climate crisis, migration, and security, which warn that China could benefit from changes in the climate to “gain influence”.

Read also: Check out our coverage on Colombia

The reports from the White House, the Pentagon, the Office of the Director of U.S. Intelligence (ODNI), and the U.S. Department of State (DOE) have all been published in the U.S. government’s annual report. ODNI and the Department of Homeland Security mark the first time the U.S. government has taken a close look at the geopolitical challenges posed by the climate crisis and its relationship to migration.

“The increasing physical effects of climate change through 2040 and beyond will be felt most severely in developing countries, which are also the least able to adapt to those changes,” the ODNI analysis states.

Overall, “climate change is likely to contribute to economic and social stress and become an increasing push factor for migration, especially for poor farmers in Central America, who make up 30% of the working population,” the report states (Photo internet reproduction)

ELEVEN “HIGHLY VULNERABLE” COUNTRIES

That report by the U.S. intelligence community identifies eleven countries of “great concern” and two entire regions: Central Africa and the Pacific Islands.

The eleven countries are Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, Afghanistan, Burma, India, Pakistan, Iraq, and North Korea. According to the ODNI, all of them are “enormously vulnerable to the physical effects” of the climate crisis and “cannot adapt.”

“These eleven countries are especially likely to experience increasingly hotter temperatures, extreme weather incidents, and disruptions in ocean patterns that will threaten their energy, food, water, and health security,” the document warns.

The report recommends that the U.S. government help these countries “improve their resilience to climate change” to “mitigate future risks to U.S. interests.”

THE CHALLENGES IN CENTRAL AMERICA

The text does not elaborate on the specific challenges facing Colombia. Still, in the case of Central America, it specifies that prolonged drought and excessive rains have “devastated” harvests, which will continue to “decline significantly due to climate change” in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

According to the document, increased rainfall and cyclones could also increase the contamination of water sources and the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever in Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti.

Overall, “climate change is likely to contribute to economic and social stress and become an increasing push factor for migration, especially for poor farmers in Central America, who make up 30% of the working population,” the report states.

On the other hand, the document concludes, without giving further details, “Brazil and Mexico have a greater capacity” than many other countries to “adapt to the changes” generated by the climate crisis.

POSSIBLE REFORMS TO THE TPS

Another of the reports released Thursday, the White House report, concludes that U.S. legal instruments to protect displaced persons are “limited” and insufficient to accommodate those fleeing the “impacts of climate change.”

Therefore, the White House should work with Congress to explore possible new immigration programs to help this population, says the analysis, which President Joe Biden ordered last February.

The document also recommends exploring reforms to the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, created in 1990. The United States grants special permits to nationals of countries affected by war or natural disasters.

This program is “limited” because it does not protect people who arrive after the date on which protection is established and because it does not contain a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship, the report stresses.

The document also warns that climate-generated migration could increase political instability by exacerbating xenophobia and hate speech by certain political actors.

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