The country records the highest March temperatures in nearly 120 years.
With power outages affecting hundreds of thousands of users and a drought deepening the country’s economic complications, the beginning of 2023 puts the climate agenda at center stage.
The city of Buenos Aires became an inferno.
After 14 consecutive days of temperatures above 32°C, the national capital suffers the most extended heat wave on record.
The situation is replicated throughout the country, where the hottest summer since 1961 was perceived, reflected in a record drought that has hit agricultural production.
According to the National Meteorological Service, on March 11, Buenos Aires exceeded 38.5°C, the highest temperature for this month in history.
The following day, the authorities reported a minimum of 28°C, an absolute record surpassing previous years.
The deficiencies in the electricity system aggravate the torrid Buenos Aires summer.
On March 13, the historical peak of electricity demand for a working day was recorded – surpassing the previous record, reached only three days earlier – and more than 200,000 users were affected by power outages.
In addition, there was a failure in the interconnected system, which left 20 million people without electricity, 40% of the national demand.
“This is the strongest and most extensive heat wave in history: we have been here for 14 days and counting. It is clear proof that the climate crisis is real and is being written in the present tense,” Laura Rocha, a journalist specializing in climate change, told Sputnik.
The researcher’s diagnosis is based on an unavoidable fact: the record is not limited to the magnitude of the temperatures recorded but also includes the duration of the phenomenon.
“This is the tenth heatwave since November. We have more than two extreme episodes per month, lasting 13 days each. We were in the whole summer virtually under heat waves. It is worrying,” says the communicator.
“Not only are the maximum temperatures higher, but the minimum temperatures do not go below 23 degrees. It becomes unbearable,” Rocha points out.
The facts verify the researcher’s reading.
The city of Buenos Aires exceeded the maximum temperature threshold of a heat wave (32.3°C) for two consecutive weeks.
The previous record was 11 days, dating back to 2017.
ENDURING THE HEAT, A PRIVILEGE OF THE FEW
According to Rocha, the impact of the oppressive summer sheds light on social inequalities.
“The climate crisis has an impact on inequality: those who have the least are unable to defend themselves,” the specialist points out.
The ability of each inhabitant to cope satisfactorily with the almost inhospitable temperatures ultimately depends on social class.
“The effect on daily life varies. In the wealthy sectors, families turn on the air conditioning, and that’s it. But the most disadvantaged don’t even have access to running water. The difference is dramatic,” says the researcher.
The adverse weather conditions directly correlate with the population’s health.
“I have experienced it with patients and even with relatives: I am receiving twice as many consultations as usual,” clinical physician Gabriel Lapman assures Sputnik.
The effects of the scorching temperatures warrant the concern of specialists.
“This heat wave can generate nausea, cramps, and dizziness. In vulnerable people, this can worsen into a coma. It is agony,” the physician points out.
“There are many cases of people with decay and exhaustion. This summer is lasting longer than usual: at this time of the year, we always had lower temperatures,” warns Lapman.
THE COST OF THE DROUGHT
The climatic ordeal affecting people – mainly in urban areas – also affects agricultural production.
“High temperatures generate serious economic damage because it enhances the effects of drought and soil deterioration, in addition to increasing the costs of recovering the productivity of those soils,” warns Rocha.
The researcher’s interpretation is verified in the reality of thousands of farmers.
“This is the most difficult moment in modern agriculture. It is the hardest season in the last 20 years,” Cristian Russo, head of estimates at the Rosario Stock Exchange, told Sputnik.
The role of the weather is crucial for the sector, which is reflected in the devastating effect of the lack of rainfall.
“Crops are collapsing. Today we are already assuming a production loss of more than 50%,” Russo points out.
“The central concern is that today the fall has no floor. We thought the heat wave would end last week. With no significant rains in sight, everything indicates that the situation will continue to worsen,” the specialist laments.
To understand the dramatic nature of the situation, the researcher considers the phenomenon plaguing the country for years.
“The drought of the last three years is equivalent to one year of rain. We are facing a historical record: more than one million hectares could not be sown due to lack of water,” he points out.
“The cost is overwhelming. Our technical teams calculate that the estimated loss will exceed US$14 billion, equivalent to 3% of the country’s GDP,” Russo explains.
When the way out of the crisis depends on a factor as alien as the weather, those affected are left with their hands tied.
“There is no productive strategy to face this hard blow. It must start to rain consistently during the last days of March to revert the lack of water that generated this disaster”, says the specialist.
WHO’S FOOTING THE BILL?
Assessing the effects of the crisis does not mean ignoring its causes.
The phenomenon of global warming, according to Rocha, has clear culprits.
“The share of the blame is not the same in all countries. The United States, for example, generates a large share of the world’s pollution. Florida is full of air conditioners in all enclosed places.”
“We can not put an air conditioner in a house that does not even have electricity. That’s where the differences are noticeable.”
From the researcher’s perspective, the contrast is evident.
“Pakistan and Bangladesh suffered a heat wave for almost three months last year. People had nowhere to be.”
“The country reached a standstill almost as much as during the coronavirus. People slept under bridges where there used to be water because they could get shade,” she says.
However, the degree of responsibility of the most developed countries does not exempt the rest of the nations from blame.
“Of course, there is a historical responsibility of the countries of the global north. But in per capita terms, Argentina ranks 22nd in the world for the highest emissions. It is not that we have no responsibility,” Rocha clarifies.
ALARM IN SOUTH AMERICA: DROUGHT RAVAGES AND REVEALS GOVERNMENT FAILURES
Apportioning blame for the current phenomenon is important, but more urgent is its resolution.
“We still have a window of opportunity to reverse this situation, but it is getting narrower and narrower,” warns the researcher.
Slowing global warming requires urgent concrete tasks.
“We have to plan both adaptation and mitigation actions. For example, slowing down the burning of fossil fuels,” says Rocha.
“We must move towards energy transition with a paradigm shift in consumption and production models. It is not that we will change large energy generations for large wind farms because it is not only a great technological change,” says the specialist.
Rocha’s proposal has a total impact on the quality of life globally.
“To achieve this goal, we must balance: we must live with less, in terms of energy savings, consumption, and production”.
With information from Sputnik