Soaring gas prices have led to economic upheaval in Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Ecuador, and Panama, which are already suffering from high poverty rates and rocketing inflation. Protests are storming across these countries over the rising pump prices and the multiplying effect they have on the economy.
“The price of fuel is an anchor for the entire economy,” Sergio Guzman, director of the business consultancy firm Colombia Risk Analysis, explained to C.N.N. If the cost of fuel goes up, “it has a direct impact on all sorts of prices.”
Amplifying this issue is the climate change crisis, which disproportionately affects countries in the Latin American region. Paradoxically, countries are having to increase fuel use to offset the effects of climate change. In Colombia, for example – the country with the cheapest gas prices in the world – fishermen are struggling with the fish shortages caused by changing rainfall patterns. As a direct consequence of the shift in rainfall, and the increasing severity of the area’s tropical storms, fish are migrating further offshore to find clearer and cooler water. Fishermen now have to travel much longer distances out at sea in order to find fish to catch, meaning their boats require more fuel. Meanwhile, prices for that fuel continue to rise.
“In January, fuel for our boats cost 8,000 pesos ($1.96) per gallons, now it’s over 9,800 pesos ($2.70),” Jimmy Murillo, a fisherman in the port city of Buenaventura, told C.N.N. “Every week, it grows a little more, and the government does not help.”
In Ecuador, the intense rainfall resulting from climate change is taking a toll on the agriculture industry, especially the country’s banana plantations. As a result, more fuel is being spent on pumping water in and out of banana plantations. This causes a chain effect raising the prices of bananas and other produce in the country.
The World Bank has predicted that climate-related disasters has cost Latin America 1.7% of the region’s G.D.P. over the past 20 years, and the effects are being felt in the rising cases of economic instability and extreme food insecurity. The latter increased by 20% from 2014 to 2020, and currently affects nearly half (41%) of Latin America.
Latin America’s food crisis will soon have a ripple effect on the entire world: over the next decade, climate change will ensure that food insecurity becomes a global issue. It is essential that world leaders take this issue seriously and partner with Latin America to mitigate the effects of climate change. Improving urban planning and infrastructure and combatting harmful environmental practices through the implementation of climate-friendly technologies will save lives.
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