The Effects of Global Warming in Panamá

What is Global Warming?

Global warming occurs when the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere increases over time due to increased levels of carbon dioxide, methane and other pollutants.

As the sun radiates its heat on the earth, the earth reflects the heat back into the atmosphere where it gets trapped by the carbon dioxide and other pollutants. This trapping of heat is what raises the planet’s average temperatures over time.

This increase in temperature causes the polar ice caps to melt a little more each year, which in turn makes the oceans more acidic. The ph increase adversely affects ocean life. There are fewer fish in the world’s oceans now than there were just decades ago. The increase in the earth’s temperatures also makes it more difficult to grow crops. Crops need specific conditions to grow including a preferred range of temperature. All of this affects the world’s food supply, but it doesn’t stop there. Global warming also causes climate changes. Areas that were once drier are now seeing an increase in yearly rainfall while other areas are now seeing a decrease. Warmer seasons are lasting longer. Severe weather like massive hurricanes and El Niño/ La Niña are becoming stronger over time.

Effects on The San Blas Islands in Panamá

n the last several years, many detrimental effects have been observed in the idyllic Panamanian San Blas Islands. The ocean levels have been rising at an alarming rate. As the levels rise, more and more of the 365 San Blas Islands, off the northern coast of mainland Panamá, have begun to sink into the ocean. San Blas is home to 2000 members of the Kuna Yala people. They have lived on these islands for centuries, planting banana and coconut trees and fishing in the oceans. Not only are their homes sinking, but their food supply is diminishing. Bananas, coconuts, and other crops are becoming more difficult to grow due to changing weather patterns. Their fishermen are catching fewer and fewer fish because the increasing ph of the ocean is killing many species. Many of the islands’ communities are relocating to other islands or to the mainland. The decision to move an entire community to the main land is not made lightly as it could also affect their traditions and way of life.

Here’s a Vamonos interview with “Mr. Eulogio,” Kuna Yala community leader, on the effects of global warming on his island:

Effects on the Panamá Canal

Global warming isn’t just affecting the Kuna Yala. It is also affecting the main land as well. Changes in the rainy season have meant less water in the Gatún Lake. This body of water supplies fresh water to the homes of more than half the country as well as to the canal locks. When there isn’t enough water to fully supply the locks, the canal authorities have to impose weight restrictions on cargo ships which means that larger ships with heavier cargo are unable to pass through. Fewer ships passing through means less revenue for Panamá. To counter this problem, Panamá has a couple of options, but neither are good. Their first option is to recycle water from one lock by using it in another. However, doing this repeatedly raises the salinity of Gatún lake over time. The second option would be to add water from the ocean to fill the locks when needed. Unfortunately, this too raises the salinity of Gatún Lake. Both of these options would render the water from the lake unusable for the many residents who depend on it.

To read more about global warming and its effects on Panamá, click on the links below.

Effects of Global Warming Climate Change Poses New Threat to Panama Canal Climate Change, COVID-19 Pandemic Threaten Future Of Panama Canal Rising Sea Drives Panama Islanders to Mainland Climate Change in Panama