Spotlight Activity: Mexico Harmed by Extreme Weather Events
Mexico is especially vulnerable to climate change and weather events due to its location between two oceans. In addition, its social and economic conditions increase the population’s vulnerability as they lack proper preparation to face the impacts of extreme weather events.
It is estimated that around 1,385 municipalities in Mexico are vulnerable to extreme weather events including floods, landslides, agricultural droughts, and heat waves, and that at least 68% of the population has been affected by natural disasters. (INECC)
According to the International Disaster Database, Mexico has registered 259 natural disasters from 1900 to 2017, from which 80% were related to hydrometeorological phenomena, with impacts that include 11,350 lost lives, 16 million people affected, and costs of around 38,000 million dollars.
One of the main hydrometeorological phenomena Mexico is vulnerable to is hurricanes. According to the National Institute of Climate Change and Ecology (INECC), around 25 hurricanes are generated annually near the Mexican coasts and 4 or 5 can enter the territory, causing serious damages. Not all states in Mexico have the same vulnerability as it varies according to location and socio-economic situation. However, 17 of the 32 Mexican states are highly exposed to hydrometeorological phenomena, the 5 most exposed being Colima, Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Baja California, and Baja California Sur.
A recent example of this is hurricane Lorena, formed in the Pacific Ocean on September 17, which has had unpredictable behavior keeping several of the exposed States in constant alert. The impacts of Lorena were enhanced by the presence of the tropical storm Mario, also formed in the Pacific Ocean.
Lorena is mainly affecting the west coast of Mexico with some of the affected states being amongst the 5 most vulnerable: Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Colima. These states have experienced impacts like floods, power and communications cuts, and damages to residential and strategic infrastructure. Local authorities are still applying security protocols to prevent further risks.
Mexico is also struggling with another extreme weather event caused by climate change and deforestation: droughts. According to the National Program Against Droughts, around 106 municipalities in Mexico are vulnerable to droughts and 8 of these are highly vulnerable. Droughts not only affect productivity and land use potential, but if uncontrolled, they can lead to other disasters, such as fires. An example of this is the burning of the Biosphere Reserve “Sian Ka’an” in Quintana Roo, declared UNESCO Human Heritage in 1987. The reserve is essential for ecological balance, contains 9 ecosystems and has 120 km of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The fires damaged 2,500 hectares and drought has strengthened its impact. Indeed, the Director of the “Amigos of Sian Ka’an” Foundation declared that most of the time, fires are caused by human activity and that drought increases the risk of them getting out of control.
Status: Standing Still
Mexico has strong climate adaptation goals, established in its Paris Agreement NDC. These include 1) Social adaptation through the conservation of biodiversity, increasing funds for prevention, and relocation of houses that are in high risk places; 2) Ecosystem-based adaptation, which includes ecosystem conservation and restoration; 3) Adaptation of strategic infrastructure, with the objective of ensuring the security of strategic infrastructure, communications, and transport in the case where natural disasters or hydrometeorological phenomena occur.
However, the country has to accelerate these actions and implement further early warning systems. Many people still live in high risk zones and are highly exposed. Forests are not effectively conserved or restored, there are still many weather events, like fires, caused by human activity and infrastructure. These tend to take place in regions that also experience loss of communication and power cuts during extreme weather events, compromising peoples’ security.
Mexico needs to strengthen its adaptation strategies and boost actions to ensure peoples’ and ecosystems’ security. There must be a stronger synchronization between environmental institutions and relevant government stakeholders like Civil Protection, Public Security, Health, etc. The National Adaptation Strategy must be finished and ought to contain the right strategies and actions for an effective climate action and strengthening of peoples’ and ecosystems’ resilience.
Send Action Alert Message to:
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources- Victor Manuel Toledo
National Comission for Protected Natural Areas- Alejandro del Mazo Maza
Climate Change Special Program 2014-2018: http://www.semarnat.gob.mx/sites/default/files/documentos/transparencia/programa_especial_de_cambio_climatico_2014-2018.pdf
National Vulnerability to Climate Change Atlas: https://www.gob.mx/inecc/acciones-y-programas/atlas-nacional-de-vulnerabilidad-ante-el-cambio-climatico-anvcc-80137
Mexico’s National Determined Contribution”: