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CLIMATE CHANGE IN HONDURAS

16.09.2022 | BLOG 

The sun scorches down from the sky, a drop of sweat runs down José's forehead. He shields his face from the sun with his hand and lets his gaze wander anxiously over his field. If it doesn't rain soon, the corn and beans will dry up - and with them the harvest that he, his wife and their two sons depend on to live for the next few months. 

 

Many people in Honduras are like José and his family. Although Honduras itself contributes little to climate change, the country is hit particularly hard by its consequences: Droughts and hurricanes are taking away people's livelihoods.

 

The Opportunity Project helps them to become more resilient to the effects of climate change - so that they can build a self-determined life for themselves in the long term.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEFINITION WHAT EXACTLY IS CLIMATE CHANGE?

 

Our planet is heating up too much and the reason is us humans - as 97% of climate researchers worldwide agree.¹ The climate has always changed, with ice ages alternating with warm periods. But since the beginning of industrialisation, the temperature has been increasing unusually fast. This rapid warming is beyond natural fluctuations and cannot be explained by natural influences. It is mainly caused by our emission of greenhouse gases.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF CLIMATE CHANGE?

 

Humans intensify the natural greenhouse effect

Greenhouse gases are not fundamentally a bad thing: the natural greenhouse effect is what makes our life on Earth possible in the first place. The sun's rays hit the earth, the earth in turn radiates heat and this is stored in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Without them, the Earth would be an uninhabitable ice desert at -18 degrees. But because of us humans, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has risen extremely sharply. The CO2 concentration today is higher than at any time in the last 600,000 years.² To put it plainly: the atmosphere is heating up too much.

Where do greenhouse gas emissions come from?

Man-made global warming began when the first steam engines blew their clouds of exhaust into the sky. Since the industrial revolution around 1850, prosperity and wealth in the industrialised countries has steadily increased - by burning raw fossil materials such as coal, oil and natural gas. A large proportion of climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions are therefore caused by industrialised countries today. In 2020, annual CO2 emissions were 7.7 tonnes per person in Germany, for example, and only 1.09 tonnes per person in Honduras.³ The greenhouse gases are mainly produced by burning raw materials for electricity, heat, industry, transport and agriculture.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE TODAY: WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS?

Almost every day, the news reports on the impacts that climate change is already having in our world. Compared to pre-industrial times, the average global temperature has increased by 1.2 degrees.⁴ This may not sound like much, but it has devastating consequences for humans and nature:

  • Extreme weather events:
    Families facing the destruction of their homes, forests burned, people and animals swept away by floods - climate change is causing more and more extreme weather events around the world. Hurricanes, droughts, heat waves and floods caused over 475,000 deaths and $2.56 trillion in damage between 2000 and 2019.⁵

  • Water shortages and crop failures: 
    In many parts of the world, higher temperatures and lack of rainfall lead to a shortage of water. When heavy rains and floods set in, the soil is eroded and destroyed - and with it the harvests.

 

  • Melting ice, higher sea levels:
    The ice on Earth is melting at an unprecedented rate. The North Pole could be completely ice-free in summer as early as 2035.⁶ This issue creates a vicious circle: the less ice there is, the less solar radiation is reflected back into space, which in turn increases global warming. As a result, sea levels rise and make entire coastal regions uninhabitable.

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  • Thawing permafrost: 
    As permafrost thaws in Siberia and other areas, methane is released, which heats the climate 21 times more than CO2. As a result, even more methane escapes. If all permafrost were to thaw, as much methane could be released as the entire amount of CO2 we have emitted to date.⁷
     

  • Acidifying oceans: 
    Oceans absorb about a quarter of man-made CO2 emissions. This lowers their pH value, i.e. the water becomes more acidic. Since 1850, the oceans have become almost 30% more acidic. This damages calcifying creatures like corals in particular - with serious consequences: 400 million people worldwide depend on coral reefs for food and protection from storm waves.⁸

 

​Researchers predict on the basis of climate models that without global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, the temperature could rise by up to 5°C compared to pre-industrial times. This would result in drastically increased risks for the habitability of our earth.

 

HOW IS CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTING HONDURAS?

Extreme weather exacerbates food insecurity in the country

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Honduras contributes only 0.03% of global CO2 emissions.⁹ At the same time, it is one of the countries most affected by the climate crisis. Many people live in rural areas - 60% of them below the poverty line. They live on home-grown corn and beans and depend on rain for this. But climate change causes heat and droughts all year round and hurricanes and floods in autumn. These weather extremes destroy crops and worsen food insecurity. 

 

Malnutrition has a particular impact on children's cognitive and physical development. They miss school due to illness, learn less due to a lack of concentration and often drop out of school. This lack of education prevents their entire communities from developing sustainably.

Hurricanes destroy people’s livelihoods

At the end of 2020, two particularly severe hurricanes, Eta and Iota, caused catastrophic damage. Masses of water and landslides swept away the often dilapidated houses and roads as well as crops. Many families lost everything. As in other developing countries, people in Honduras are defenceless against climate risks. They are less able to cope with the consequences of extreme weather because they have no savings or government aid to fall back on. Together with violence, poverty and corruption, the consequences of climate change are forcing many people to flee from Honduras.

Carlos Manuel Urbina - Co-Founder and Head of Community Initiatives is experiencing first-hand the consequences of climate change for the people of Honduras. In the following interview, he reports on his experiences.

How do you perceive climate change in Honduras?
 

Carlos: The effects of climate change are clearly felt in Honduras, especially in the rural, more vulnerable areas of the country. We are experiencing very high temperatures that are drying out our fields. In addition, there are floods and dangerous landslides. Climate change is changing the seasons. Normally, May is the rainy season, but it has not rained in May for three years now.

 

What are the consequences for the people of Honduras?

Carlos: Climate change affects agricultural production and also biodiversity. The families living here can no longer rely on being able to live off their harvests. They sow corn and beans, but the plants dry up. The lack of rain makes the soil infertile. Many people, young and old, are therefore malnourished or suffer from food insecurity. 

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HOW CAN WE HELP THE PEOPLE IN HONDURAS?

Strengthen food security

The consequences of climate change are preventing the people of Honduras from building a better life for themselves, even though they themselves contribute so little to global warming. The Opportunity Project therefore helps them cope with the challenges that the climate crisis brings to the peoples daily lives. 

 

Our Gardens for Growth Initiative helps families to become more resilient to weather extremes and to secure their food.

We provide them with seeds, tools and knowledge to start their own vegetable gardens.

In regular workshops, they learn how best to deal with droughts, set up irrigation systems and make the soil more fertile with compost. To reduce the risk of crop failure, they grow mixed crops of carrots, courgette, tomatoes, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables.

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Help people to become more resilient

By growing their own vegetables, people can eat healthier. As a result, children's cognitive and physical abilities improve. They are less likely to miss school and their education improves - which is the basis for building a self-determined life in the long term. 

 

In addition, by saving the surplus vegetables, families can build up reserves to become more resilient to the effects of extreme weather events. Would you like to help the people in Honduras to adapt their lives to climate change? If so, we would be delighted to receive your donation.

Zusätzlich können sich Familien durch den Verkauf von überschüssigem Gemüse Rücklagen schaffen, um widerstandsfähiger gegen die Folgen von Wetterextremen zu werden. Möchtest Du den Menschen in Honduras helfen, ihr Leben an den Klimawandel anzupassen? Dann freuen wir uns über Deine Spende:

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?

Climate targets worldwide: How can governments limit their contributions to climate change?

Climate change adaptation measures will reach their limits if global warming continues. We must therefore tackle the causes of climate change. At the UN climate summit in Paris in 2015, the world's governments agreed:

Global warming should remain below 2 °C compared to pre-industrial times - ideally even below 1.5 °C. Otherwise, there is a threat of uncontrollable risks to life on Earth. 

 

To achieve this goal, global CO2 emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas must approach zero by 2050. To achieve this, industrialised countries must step up their climate protection efforts now and help developing countries to implement solutions against climate change - from new energy sources and more energy efficiency to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Protecting the climate - what can I do?

In addition to policymakers, you can also help to save the climate in your everyday life. Every contribution counts! If we all reduce our CO2 emissions, it will have a big effect in total. Those who support climate protection often even save money and live healthier. 

 

With these simple tips you can reduce your carbon footprint:

 

  • Eat fewer animal products

  • Shop locally, regionally and seasonally

  • Avoid unnecessary plastic packaging ¹⁰

  • Plan your shopping well to avoid food waste

  • Drink tap water 

  • Cycle or walk short distances instead of driving

  • Plan holidays by train, bus or ferry if possible

  • Switch to a certified green electricity provider

  • Donate to climate protection projects

  • Choose electrical appliances with low power consumption

  • Switch off appliances instead of only using stand-by mode

  • Repair things instead of throwing them away

  • Consume less and buy used instead of new

 

Together, we can alleviate climate change so that life on our planet remains worth living in the future - for the people of Honduras and around the world.

WEITERFÜHRENDE QUELLEN:

  1. John Cook et al.: „Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature“ (2013), Environmental Research Letters 8(2), https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024

  2. „Klimawandel und seine Folgen“, Massive Open Online Course des Deutschen Klima Konsortiums und WWF, https://www.wwf.de/aktiv-werden/bildungsarbeit-lehrerservice/mooc-online-vorlesung

  3. Country Fact Sheets Honduras / Germany, Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), European Commission, https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/country_profile/HND und https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/country_profile/DEU

  4. Our Planet, Our Future – An Urgent Call for Action. Statement, https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2021/04/nobel-prize-laureates-and-other-experts-issue-urgent-call-for-action-after-our-planet-our-future-summit

  5. Globaler Klima-Risiko-Index (2021), Germanwatch e.V., https://www.germanwatch.org/de/19777

  6.  „Arktis ohne Eis?“, WWF, https://www.wwf.de/themen-projekte/projektregionen/arktis/arktis-ohne-eis

  7. „Eisschmelze: Das große Rauschen“ (2019), radioWissen Bayern 2, https://www.br.de/mediathek/podcast/radiowissen/eisschmelze-das-grosse-rauschen/1788905

  8. „Das Wissen zu saureren Meeren auf einen Blick“, Alfred-Wegener-Institut (AWI), https://www.awi.de/im-fokus/ozeanversauerung/fakten-zur-ozeanversauerung.html

  9. Country Fact Sheet Honduras, Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), European Commission, https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/country_profile/HND

  10. „Klimawandel: Plastik heizt das Klima an“, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, https://www.boell.de/de/2019/06/06/klimawandel-plastik-heizt-das-klima

 
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