Rising temperatures drying up history, one lake at a time
Wednesday, July 20, 2016, 12:04 - For urban dwellers and suburbanites, the changing pace of global weather patterns might only be cause for concern when minor anomalies take place -- a snowless winter, dry spring, or cooler summer, for example.
But for rural residents -- namely, some of the world's indigenous communities -- earth's rising temperatures have a stark impact. This is the case for locals in the Andes of Bolivia, who once thrived off the country's second-largest lake.
After decades of annual El Niño droughts and water diversion through the Andes, Bolivia's Lake Poopó completely dried up in December 2015. For Uru-Muratos, an indigenous population native to the lake's surrounding area of Llapallapani, the loss has had a damaging effect.
Besides being a source of livelihood for fishing families, Lake Poopó was a symbol of identity for the Uru-Murato people, the New York Times (NYT) reports. Uru-Muratos are the region's oldest indigenous community, having shifted through the centuries of political and social upheaval. A changing climate, however, leaves the community with no choice but to flee.
“The lake was our mother and our father,” Adrián Quispe, a fisherman from Llapallapani, told the NYT. Along with his five brothers, Quispe is one of hundreds ofLlapallapani's hundreds of fishermen raising a family. "Without this lake, where do we go?”
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The United Nations has highlighted the heightened effects of climate change on indigenous populations, noting that at-risk populations span all corners of the globe -- from the Himalayas to the Arctic, the Amazon to Scandanavia.
"Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources," a UN backgrounder from the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues reads.
Weather Network meteorologist and science writer Scott Sutherland adds that dependency on agriculture poses the most significant threat to those living in rural environments, including indigenous peoples.
"Specifically for indigenous peoples, their traditional methods of growing crops, hunting, trapping and fishing are becoming more difficult as climates shift, especially in the Arctic," Sutherland says. "In the Arctic, where temperatures are rising at roughly twice the rate as the global average, dwindling sea ice is impacting on local wildlife, which is affecting the local indigenous people who rely on this wildlife for food and other resources."
Strongest impact on the poor
Recent research also supports that the world's poorest nations are most likely to bear the brunt of rising temperatures, despite having the lowest CO2 emissions.
These findings also apply to those within a low-income bracket in wealthy nations, Sutherland says.
"Although urban dwellers are surrounded by more development and infrastructure, the poor living in these environments will still be affected the most by climate change. Of all those living in cities, the poor are most likely to be without luxuries such as air conditioning, and they are most likely to have jobs where they must spend the majority of the day outdoors."
Cities tend to feel the extremes of heat waves due to the urban heat island, Sutherland adds. "[T]his means more exposure for the city’s poor during the more frequent and more extreme heat waves that are expected due to climate change.