Like most countries in Latin America, Bolivia has submitted one national communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with a second one under preparation.
Land use change and forestry, coupled with agriculture, are by far the largest contributors to GHG emissions in the country. The emission reduction potential of the sector is large, but not sufficiently explored.
Bolivia counts with only 2 registered CDM projects, none of which is in the agricultural sector. Agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate variability and weather extremes and around a third of the population derives their livelihood from agricultural production.
A greater emphasis on adaptation strategies, in particular those related to water harvest and sustainable land management, as well as developing and applying adequate insurance mechanisms can be placed for better management of public resources in light of natural disasters in the agriculture sector.
The baseline map provides a visual characterization of Bolivia’s agricultural potential given current environmental constraints and their regional distribution. Around 35% of Bolivia’s land is used for agriculture (32% for pasture and 3% for cultivation), with forestry occupying 54% of the land in the country (WDI, 2005).
According to the First National Communication the following future impacts from climate change related events can be expected in Bolivia:
a) increase in temperature – by 2030 temperature increases are estimated to range from 0.8 to 1.7°C, with lower increases in the Western and Southern part of the country (Oruro, south La Paz, Chuquisaca, Tarija). It is estimated that by the year 2050 the climate in Bolivia will become warmer by 1 to 2°C, especially in the West and South and during the dry months (May, June, July). For 2100, it is expected that temperature increases in dry and humid months would range from 2-4°C with smaller increases (1.4 to 3.9°C) in the eastern part of the country (Santa Cruz).
b) increase in precipitation – for 2030, during the dry months the rainfall estimates range from 0 to 20% in the West and South, while the Northwest (Pando, north La Paz) and Southeast (Santa Cruz, with subtropical forests and the Chaco’s plain) show a larger variation and potential precipitation decrease (-4 to 22%). However, in absolute terms the estimated rainfall increase is higher during the humid months, reaching up to 27mm per month between December and March. In the dry months, the percentage increase is bigger but, in absolute terms, variations are lower and the maximum estimated increase is 7mm per month. The estimates for 2050 and 2100 follow a similar pattern, however, absolute rainfall increases reach up to 41mm and 76mm, respectively.
In recent years (between 2001 and 2007), floods and droughts have had the highest human and economic impact in Bolivia, with losses for the period 1997-2006 averaging 0.15% of GDP – 1.4 million people have been affected by floods (6 events) with the cost of damages reaching US$ 0.8 billion, and 75,000 people have been affected by droughts.
Since 1983, Bolivia has suffered increases in drought and floods, with more frequency and higher incidence in the last years. According to estimates by Beck and Roche (1986), more frequent and intensive floods in the Northeastern part of Bolivia (Beni) cover 10m ha and are mainly localized in the Mamoré River watershed.
In the Western high plains and valleys of the country, El Niño caused droughts with consequent resources losses in crops and livestock, while floods in the East damaged crops, livestock and forced inhabitants’ migration.
According to a study by the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), El Niño 1997/98 caused a loss of US$530m in Bolivia (equivalent to 7% of national GDP), 53% of which stemming from the droughts in the Altiplano and 47% from the floods in the North and East. Additional marginal effects of El Niño are extreme winds, serious forest fires, and hailstorms in the inter-Andean valleys. In 2002, 70 to 90% of rainfed crops (mainly corn) were destroyed in the middle basin of the Rio Grande due to lack of rain. In 2003 a drought in Southern Santa Cruz destroyed almost the whole agricultural production.
During the same year, almost the whole country was affected by heavy rains and floods in different places, leading to landslides and severe destructions of infrastructure. In 2006 more than 103,000 ha of agricultural area were damaged by floods: 64,000 ha of maize, soy, rice and sorghum and 30,000 ha of pastureland4. Bolivia also experiences consequences of La Niña in the form of cold fronts during summer in the Eastern part of the country, leading to increased rainfall. In 2004, a 12 hour snow storm affected the Southern provinces of Potosí, with severe damages in livestock and tourism installations.
Furthermore, Impacts of glacier retreat on economic activities have been felt already and include total or partial loss of tourism and snow sports, such as for Chacaltaya glacier in Bolivia, and shortage of water supply for urban populations and agriculture. Zongo glacier has lost 9.4% of its surface area and could disappear by 2045-2050 leading to serious problems in agriculture. The problem of ice losses in Bolivia has been noticed in different areas along the Cordillera de los Andes. The average ice losses, from the Tuni and Condoriri glaciers from 1956 to 2006, is 50 % and if the same tendency of glacier area reduction continues, there is a main concern that the Tuni and Condiriri glaciers will disappear by 2025 and 2045, respectively.