The Fulcrum of Our New Relationship in the Americas U.S. Senator John Kerry
By the 2020s, tens of millions of people in Latin America will find their access to water constrained by
climate change, according to the IPCC. Increasing regional population and decreasing supplies could push
that number to between 60 million and 150 million
after 2050. To make matters worse, the Andean intertropical glaciers are very likely to disappear over the
coming decades, affecting water availability and hydropower generation.
In May 2009, a drought hit Brazil’s famed Iguazu
Falls, reducing water volume by a third.
ing the scaling-up of renewable energy sources.
CHRISTIAN RIZZI/AFP/GE TTY; DANIEL BELTRA/GE TTY
In June, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and
Minister Marcelo Tokman of the Chilean National
Energy Commission signed an agreement for the
U.S. to support pilot solar power generation projects
in northern Chile, as well as Chile’s new Renewable
Energy Center. We should be signing deals like this
across Latin America. We have a chance to usher in
a new era of collaboration based on shared climate
risk and the shared goal of spreading the use of clean
and renewable energy.
Focus on Forests
Clean energy is vitally important, but to concentrate
solely on energy is to overlook Latin America’s most
valuable climate stabilization resource: its forests.
From Brazil’s Cerrado to the pine forests of Hondu-
Desertification caused by climate change threatens the Amazon.
Desertification and Forest Loss
The IPCC projects that by the 2050s almost half of
Latin America’s agricultural lands will be at risk of
desertification and salinization. Likewise, decreased
rainfall and increased frequency and scale of fires
will threaten what is left of the Amazon Rainforest.
The combination of these environmental strains
and increased human pressure due to loss of existing
agricultural lands will greatly harm what are now some
of the world’s most species-rich environments.
Unless we craft a global effort to address this
challenge, Latin America—like other regions of the
world—faces potentially catastrophic risks.
ras and Belize, Latin America’s diverse plant life is a
source of pristine natural beauty. It is also perfectly
suited for large-scale carbon sequestration and conservation projects.
In nature, trees act as sinks, absorbing carbon
dioxide and turning it into oxygen. When certain
types of trees are cut down, however, the planet not
only loses its carbon dioxide sinks, but major new
emissions are released as well. Brazil’s historical
patterns of deforestation and forest degradation are
responsible for the country’s status as the world’s
Fortunately Latin America is already taking
action to reduce this trend.
In late 2008, Brazil announced a plan to reduce
deforestation rates in the Amazon by 70 percent in
ten years. It is estimated that this plan will save 2,316