Meteorologists and representatives of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) warned this week that climate change is already happening in Costa Rica, citing extreme weather and its subsequent effects, from health problems to rat infestations.
“It would be an error to think that climate change will only affect future generations. Today in Costa Rica, we are already starting to feel the effects,” said José Manuel Hermida, the program’s representative in Costa Rica, during a conference in San José.
Hermida rattled off a list of gloom-and doom predictions if countries don’t initiate efforts to cut the emission of greenhouse gases, including a five-degree-Celsius increase in temperature and a rise of global sea levels by as much as one meter.
Roberto Villalobos, climate change specialist for the National Meteorological Institute (IMN), warned of the possibility of extended droughts along the Pacific slope – an area already parched during the summer dry season. About 3.5 million Ticos depend on water from that region, he said.
Villalobos also warned of the potentially serious effects on electricity generation. Water, he said, is Costa Rica’s “petroleum.”
Villalobos and Hermida also spoke of potential health risks caused by more variable and warmer weather, including the spread of mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue fever and malaria, to higher altitudes.
“These were once considered lowland diseases,”Villalobos said. “Now we are seeing them in the higher regions of the Central Valley.”
Incidence of skin cancer has also gone up 33% in women and 43% in men over the past 10 years, he said.
Extended rains this year drove field rats out of caves and holes in the ground and into people’s homes, yet another example of the effects of unpredictable weather, said Villalobos.