Climate Change in Guatemala

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The negative effects of climate change can be felt on several different levels in Guatemala. The wet and dry seasons have become more unpredictable and unprecedented in recent years. These events, like lengthy droughts and heavy rainfall, have increased in frequency and intensity. The region in Guatemala known as the Dry Corridor experiences these adverse climate change effects to a greater degree than the rest of the country and puts the people living in this region at a greater risk of harm.

The climate change crisis in Guatemala is fueled by global emissions of greenhouse gases. Burning fossils fuels and the deforestation of land are the two greatest contributors to climate change in Guatemala. These two practices emit high amounts of carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas. Other practices, like agriculture and the raising of livestock, also release greenhouse gases into the air.

Additionally, Climate change has adversely impacted the Guatemalan people. The unpredictability of the weather has caused major food shortages and great financial loss for many families. People impacted by these effects often migrate northward, leaving behind their property, friends, and often other family members.

Thankfully, nonprofit organizations in Guatemala see the effects of climate change on the Guatleman people and work to combat it. These on the ground Guatemala nonprofits aim to negate the numerous consequences brought about by climate change and remedy the situation many Guatemalan people are living in.

Effects of Climate Change in Guatemala

Climate change in Guatemala is causing the weather to be more unpredictable and increasing the frequency of natural disasters. There are two main seasons in Guatemala, wet and dry.

These seasons used to be fairly predictable, with the wet season spanning from May through October and the dry season lasting from November through April. Because of climate change however, these seasons are becoming more erratic and less predictable. The rains that usually begin in May are now coming in June or even later. When the wet season does finally begin, it sometimes does not last as long as it should.

Tropical Storm
Climate change has increased the frequency of tropical storms and other natural disasters

Along with unpredictable weather patterns, Guatemala has also seen a rise in natural disasters. During the dry season, droughts persist over many months and negatively impact agriculture. The wet season in Guatemala brings unpredictable hurricanes and heavy rainfall. This precipitation causes deadly mudslides and floods that have adverse effects on the country.

Even though the byproducts of climate change can be felt throughout Guatemala, the Dry Corridor experiences these effects to a greater degree. The Dry Corridor is an ecological region that spans across Central America and includes portions of Guatemala. This area experiences both long-lasting droughts and heavy amounts of rainfall that are more severe than other places in Guatemala. These weather events are often unpredictable and make living in the Dry Corridor not only difficult but often deadly. Climate change has only exacerbated the already hostile climate of the Dry Corridor and is making the region desolate.

Dry Corridor Map
This map shows how the Dry Corridor runs through Central America into Guatemala

Causes of Climate Change in Guatemala

The climate change that is affecting Guatemala is a result of both external world affairs and damaging internal practices. Globally, the release of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere, primarily in the 20th and 21st centuries, has caused unprecedented global warming that has never been seen before. Greenhouses gases are vapors that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Common examples of such gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

The burning of fossil fuels for energy and transportation is the top global contributor to climate change. The use of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and gasoline, expels large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. The second-largest contributor to climate change is deforestation. This practice releases large amounts of stored carbon within the trees into the atmosphere. Deforestation alone is responsible for 20% of the total carbon dioxide in the air.

deforestation
Deforestation releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and is the second-largest contributor to global warming

Other practices that facilitate climate change include fertilizer use and livestock production. The use of fertilizer, especially on a large scale for agriculture use, releases nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Livestock production, like the beef and pork industries, expels large amounts of methane gas into the air.

These external factors have already caused climate change in Guatemala. However, internal practices may also be to blame as well. In 1950, 65% of Guatemala’s land was forested. Today, only 36.3% of the land is forested. The deforestation in Guatemala has not only contributed to climate change, but has also caused land degradation as well. Heavy rainfall has washed vital nutrients and rich topsoil from deforested areas, creating swaths of poor-quality land that is unworkable.

Effects of Climate Change on People 

Droughts, hurricanes, and flooding, brought about by climate change, have ruined the once fertile lands. 40% of people in Guatemala rely on agriculture for food and or income. However, crops are much harder to cultivate due to the erratic weather, giving families in Guatemala two options, wait or migrate. If families chose to stay and wait out the unpredictable weather, they face starvation and uncertain crop yields. The families that choose to migrate move northward. The United States is one example of where Guatemalan families may go as it has seen an over 70% increase in migrants from Guatemala in the past few years.

Regardless of where migrating families relocate to, they all lose their livelihoods and must start again. Migrating families leave behind their communities and usually property that has been in their family for generations. The migration caused by climate change has uprooted families and forced them to abandon everything that they know.

Drought
Lack of rainfall has caused many fertile lands to be barren and has forced Guatemalan families to migrate

The lack of workable farmland and the scarcity that comes with harvest has led to a nationwide food shortage in Guatemala. Almost 60% of Guatemalan people are now living in poverty. In addition, 15% cannot meet their hunger needs, and almost 50% of children’s growth is stunted because of chronic malnutrition. It is clear that the unpredictable weather patterns brought about by climate change have created a food crisis in Guatemala.

Nonprofits that Address Climate Change

The numerous effects climate change has brought upon Guatemala are evident. From droughts that scorch the earth to floods and hurricanes destroying the land, climate change is already a major issue in the country. Because of widespread poverty, Guatemala feels the effects of climate change more so than other countries, putting the nation even more at risk.

Fortunately, many Guatemala nonprofit organizations are on the ground helping relieve some of the effects caused by climate change. Pionero Philanthropy partners with such Guatemala nonprofits and assesses them on five key areas; Sustainability, Transparency, Efficiency, Impact, and Need/Relevance.

Seeds for a Future is one example of Pionero Philanthropy’s Partner Nonprofits that educates on nutrition and self reliance in the face of climate change in rural communities. Source: Seeds for a Future

Ak’tenamit is a nonprofit partner of Pionero Philanthropy that supports indigenous Guatemalan people. They educate indigenous groups about climate change and ensure that they have a voice in designing climate change policies. Ak’tenamit also supports indigenous groups in participating in national, regional, and international conferences regarding climate change. Additionally, Ak’tenamit was the first lobbying organization in Guatemala to advocate for the protection of indigenous rights during climate change.

Seeds for a Future is another nonprofit partner of Pionero Philanthropy that focuses on education and food scarcity in Guatemala. Their mission is to provide rural families in Guatemala with coaching and technical assistance in nutrition and food security, home production of plant and animal foods, diversification of income crops, and improved farming techniques. This Guatemalan nonprofit helps empower people to keep themselves healthy and build more reliant agriculture practices despite the effects of climate change.

Pionero Philanthropy has almost 200 nonprofit organizations in their database working in the environmental field. You can access this info on our website or contact us for more information.