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ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE| PERU

**UNCLASSIFIED**
US DOE Environmental Security Brief (IN40/GlobalEESE)
Environmental Security of Abrupt Climate Change in Peru
First draft 11 November 2009
Public release 22 January 2011
Jennifer Gonzalez (jgonzalez@globalint.org)

SUMMARY
The following report was drawn up in response to scenario planning carried out with the Global
Energy and Environmental Ecosystem (GlobalEESE) at the US Department of Energy. The Abrupt Climate
Change team’s work in spring 2009, in conjunction with scientific research communities outside DOE,
determined that shifting environmental conditions would likely create significant geophysical changes
within a short time horizon. Peru emerged as an example of where critical vulnerabilities exist, and yet
the potential risks are not well recognized within the security community. This report represents
background to a larger scenario process initially meant to be conducted with DOE/GlobalEESE, whose
work has now largely been transferred to Global Interconnections LLC and the US Air Force.
Chad Briggs, Washington, DC 21 January 2011

GEOGRAPHICAL EXTREMES OF PERU


Peru spans just over 1,285,000 km2 along the Pacific coast deep within the tropics from 3
degrees to 18 degrees South latitude, standing behind Brazil and Argentina as the third largest country
in South America1. Peru is a state of diverse geographic and ecological extremes, with varying
topography and climate among its three main regions: the Coastal region west of the Andes, the tropical
Rainforest east of the Andes, and the Cordillera within the Andes2. The Andes form a mountain barrier
against lower-troposphere easterlies that shapes climate patterns within the country3. To the west of
the Andes, the South Pacific anti-cyclone and the Humboldt Current create an arid Coastal region that
becomes progressively drier in the south, in some cases creating desert conditions; while to the east of
the Andes, Atlantic air masses generate a warm, humid climate in the interior Amazon Rainforest4. The
Andes form a series of north trending cordilleras, rising to elevations above 5,000 meters, which contain
70% of the world’s inter-tropical glaciers5.
THE CORDILLERA BLANCA
The Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes forms one quarter of the world’s tropical glaciers,
which fulfills crucial roles in Peru’s local hydrological cycle as well as in the livelihoods of Peru’s
population. 722 thin, crevassed, and slope-type glaciers compose the Cordillera Blanca, which spans
180km north-northwest to south-southeast, from 8°30´ to 10°S6. In the Cordillera, the annual oscillation
of the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) causes alternating dry and wet seasons. The duration of
each season and the accumulation of precipitation within a given season vary with regard to altitude
and orientation of the mountain slopes; however the wet season generally spans through the southern
hemisphere summer from October to April, with an extended dry season for the remainder of the year.
The Cordillera maintains homogenous temperature conditions throughout the year, yet has highly
variable air humidity, moisture content, and precipitation7.

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Precipitation falling in the tropical Andes is initially stored within the mountain glaciers of the
Cordillera, or in high-altitude tropical wetlands known as the Páramos, and then released gradually8.
Most of the Cordillera Blanca’s glacialized watersheds discharge toward the southwest from Lake
Conococha through the Río Santa to the Pacific Ocean. The Upper Rio Santa watershed has an area of
4900 km2, known as the Callejon de Huaylas, that relies on surface runoff from the Cordillera9. Glacial
melt within the Cordillera provides the crucial function of offsetting these variations in precipitation, by
supplying additional water to areas with uncertain or inadequate precipitation, most significantly the
Pacific Coast. The majority of Peru’s population resides in the water-scarce arid coastal region, where its
capital city Lima is located, while little of Peru’s population lives in the water-rich Amazon rainforest.
The average precipitation in Lima is only 25mm annually, which cannot satisfy the demand for potable
water in Peru’s largest city. Therefore, Lima and Peru’s other coastal areas rely on glaciers to increase
supply, frequently relying solely on glacial melt for water supply in the dry season10.
In addition to the inter-tropical glaciers of the Cordillera, the Andes contain 35,000-77,000 km2
of high-altitude wetlands known as the Páramo, including glacier-formed valleys and plains, peat bogs,
lakes, and wet grasslands with intermittent shrublands and patches of forest. The Páramo covers some
parts of the Northern Andes, between 11° north and 8° S latitude. While there is no seasonality in the
Páramo, daily temperatures vary more than 20 °C which determines frost and snow lines. Precipitation
varies strongly from 700mm to 3,000mm, depending on altitude, wind direction and wind speed, and
precipitation patterns in the Pacific and Amazon Basin. While the glaciers of the Cordillera compose a
significantly greater proportion of the Peruvian Andes and contribute more substantially to Peru’s
national water supply, the Páramo provides water for residents of the Andean highlands who rely on
Páramo water for agricultural, industrial, and household uses as well as hydropower generation11.
CHANGING CLIMATE IN THE CORDILLERA BLANCA
The location of tropical glaciers and their characteristic precipitation patters make them
especially sensitive to variations in climate. As they are located in low tropical latitudes but higher
altitudes, tropical glaciers are subjected to higher levels of radiation. In addition, the wet season for
tropical glaciers occurs during the summer when temperatures are highest, increasing glacial melt in
lower zones. Tropical glaciers have two zones, a higher “accumulation” zone where snow accumulates
and eventually transforms into ice causing glacier buildup, and a lower “ablation” zone which is the
major source of glacial meltwater. Climate variation causes the ratio between accumulation and
ablation zones to shift, changing the amount and pattern of glacial runoff. In retreating glaciers, the
ratio between non-glacierised area and glacierised area increases and the total surface area of the
glacier decreases12.
Despite generally homogenous annual temperatures, records of temperature in the Cordillera
show an average warming of 0.09-0.15°C per decade from 1950 to 1994, while the majority of warming
has occurred since the 1970s. The lower elevations west of the Andes experienced the greatest
warming, while east of the Andes only experienced moderate warming. Increasing temperatures and
freezing levels lead to increased melting and expose glaciers to more rain rather than snow, impacting
near-surface relative humidity. Near-surface humidity levels have increased along with temperature, up
to 2.5% per decade from 1950 to 1994, which results in more available energy in melting snow and ice;
therefore, ablation increases in humid, cloudy conditions13. As climate variations such as changes in
humidity, cloud cover, and precipitation may impact albedo and net radiation balance, they can
accelerate or increase glacial melt. Further, recent studies show that future warming will increase with
altitude in the lower troposphere, with temperatures increasing more at higher altitudes in the Andes
than at lower elevations. The high mountains of Peru are among the areas in Latin America predicted to
experience maximum temperature increases14.

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Precipitation trends in Peru are very weak and not well quantified, with few showing elevation-
dependence15. Peru’s geographical extremes complicate accurate and comprehensive data collection,
making data for precipitation sparse. Climate variations in Peru are exacerbated by the El Niño-
Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon which some scientists fault for drastic and often abrupt
changes in precipitation. Contrary to temperature increase which causes gradual receding of glaciers,
ENSO affects interannual glacier movement, both advance and recession. The most recent two phases
of glacier advances both occurred amid cold La Niña conditions, demonstrating the close linkage
between climate variations in the Pacific Ocean and changes in the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca. El
Niño periods of the past two decades have brought severe flooding in drier regions of Peru and
decreased precipitation in wetter mountain regions, diminishing snow and ice accumulation and
accelerating glacial retreat16. La Niña produces a cold and wet signal in the Andes while El Niño
produces warm and dry signal in the Andes, creating thermal and hydrologic responses in the Andes
which diminish glacier mass balance17. Other scientists do not find such a strong link between ENSO and
precipitation, but rather attribute increasing temperature fluctuations to the phenomenon18. Increasing
temperatures may result in more frequent ENSO and amplify its effects, which would directly impact
glacier mass balance in the Cordillera19. While the close relationship between ENSO and the Andes
climate has been established, the effects of future changes in ENSO conditions on glacier mass balance
in the Cordillera remain uncertain.
ACCELERATED GLACIER MELT IN THE CORDILLERA BLANCA
Glacial melt in the Peruvian Cordillera has not been constant throughout the 20th century but
rather was concentrated in two periods, the 1930s through the 1940s and the 1970s continuing through
the present. In 1930, the Cordillera Blanca covered 800-850 km2 prior to over a decade of accelerated
retreat. Following this severe glacial melt, the rate of retreat slowed to near equilibrium and in some
cases even became glacier advance until the early 1970s20. Since the mid-1970s glacial retreat has
increased steadily, losing an estimated 15-30% ice mass21. The Cordillera Blanca spanned 660-680 km2
in 1970, 620 km2 in 1990 and just below 600 km2 at the end of the 20th century. The 1997-1998 ENSO
saw slight slowing or even mild glacier advance due to persistent La Niña cold seasons and snow,
however retreat accelerated again, continuing today22.
Ten glaciers have been monitored since 1932, each indicating glacial melt ranging from 590m to
1910m through 1994. Glaciers in Peru clearly demonstrate accelerated retreat in recent decades, such
as the 4.9m yr-1 rate of retreat on the Quori Kalis was almost three times faster from 1983 to 1991 than
1963 to 1978 and the 290,000 m3 yr-1 volume loss was over seven times as great within the same
period23. Some studies show the Qori Kalis retreating forty times faster today than two decades ago24.
The Quelccaya ice cap is also melting at an accelerated rate, and will likely disappear by 2030-204025.
Glacial melt has affected the shape and types of these glaciers within the Cordillera Blanca. Most small-
scale and low-lying glaciers have disappeared, while slope-type glaciers have receded without significant
change in shape and valley-type glaciers have changed shape significantly due to the loss of their glacial
tongues. The overall effect is the ongoing transformation of valley-type glaciers to appear as the same
shape as the slope-type glaciers and consequently, more direct exposure to radiation than in previous
years26. The impact of increased exposure to radiation perpetuates the potential for accelerated glacial
melt in coming decades.
THE FUTURE CLIMATE OF PERU
Despite observed Changes in temperature and climate patterns in the Peruvian Cordillera,
various uncertainties persist about Peru’s future climate conditions and the impacts of those conditions
on the livelihoods of Peru’s population. General circulation models (GCMs) portraying the global future
climate with twice the amount of preindustrial carbon dioxide concentrations demonstrate that the rate

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of temperature rise in the lower troposphere will increase with altitude. GCMs predict maximum
temperature increases in the high mountains of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and northern Chile, signaling
increased warming for the high-altitude glaciers of the Cordillera27. Some modeling efforts demonstrate
that many lower-altitude glaciers will completely disappear in the Cordillera within the next 10-20 years,
while others maintain that glaciers below 5,500m will completely disappear by 201528.
In many cases GCMs are considered reasonable predictions of future climate conditions, yet in
the case of Peru, they are not the most advanced or accurate forecast of future climate conditions. The
Peruvian Andes possess both a complex topography and steep climatic gradients from the tropical
rainforests to their east to the desert to their west; GCMs are insufficient to resolve the diverse climatic
gradients that exist between Peru’s geographical extremes. Additional models have made predictions
based on analysis of projected temperature change in the free troposphere, however these models do
not fully account for the changes in “surface variables” such as precipitation and relative humidity that
can significantly affect glacier mass balance. Previous modeling efforts have been unable to provide a
comprehensive picture of Peru’s future climate conditions due to uncertainty, data gaps, and Peru’s
distinct geography.29
Rocío Urrutia and Mathias Vuille use a regional climate model to quantify 21st Century climate
change in the tropical Andes, which can better account for the complexity of Peru’s geography and
hydrological patterns. Urrutia and Vuille’s regional climate model predicts similar future temperature
conditions to the General Circulation Model, finding warming at all elevations in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca
with the greatest temperature rise increasing with altitude. The temperature is expected to increase
dramatically on the Eastern slope of the Andes, of approximately 4.4°C at low altitudes under 500 m and
greater than 4.5°C at high altitudes over 3500 m. Warming also occurs along the Western slope of the
Andes, by 3.5°C at 500m to 4.8°C above 4000m a.s.l. The regional climate model also predicts a general
increase in precipitation at altitudes up to 2000 m a.s.l. on both Eastern and Western slopes of the
Andes. The greatest relative increase in precipitation is expected to occur over the Pacific Ocean along
the coast of northern Peru and Ecuador between 0°S and 8°S. However, above the altitude of 2000 m
a.s.l. no significant changes and in some cases a decrease in precipitation, especially on the Western
slope above 4000 m a.s.l., is expected according to the model.30
While Urrutia and Vuille simulate a detailed regional climate model (RCM) that accounts for
numerous caveats specific to Peru’s diverse climate, it cannot fully predict the impacts of these changes
on glacier mass balance in the Cordillera. The model suggests that that greater temperature increases
at higher altitudes would not have additional precipitation to offset the impacts of warming, which in
turn suggests further negative mass balance for Andean glaciers. However, as other modeling efforts,
this regional climate model sustains a level of uncertainty herein caused by a lack of vertical resolution.
The RCM clearly determines that temperature increases will cause the rain-snow line to rise which
negatively impacts glacier mass balance; however without vertical resolution this RCM cannot predict
the exact implications of the rise in freezing levels on the glaciers in the Cordillera31. In addition to the
effects on glacierization, an upward trending rain-snow line due to temperature increase would likely
lead to increased seasonality in the Páramo, could reduce precipitation, and directly impact water runoff
and timing32.
Other predictions for future change with a high level of uncertainty include major shifts of
atmospheric circulation patterns, including equatorial easterlies, westerlies and tradewinds which are all
subject to change if the energy content of the earth system changes. Such changes in atmospheric
circulation could impact surface humidity and glacier mass balance33. Another large uncertainty is the
potential for a “Permanent EL Niño,” and the uncertain impacts of continuous ENSO which could
possibly include increased average annual runoff in Peru34.

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VULNERABILITY TO ABRUPT CLIMATE EVENTS


These gradual variations in climate conditions increase the vulnerability of abrupt climate
change events in Peru, the frequency and impacts of which are equally difficult to quantify. Numerous
glacial lakes cover the Cordillera, which could burst their banks at any time especially under higher
temperature conditions. Accelerating glacial melt increases runoff into glacial lakes, increasing their
volume and the hydrostatic pressure on the retaining barrier which heightens the possibility that they
will overflow or that the barrier will burst. A breach in any of these banks would cause waters to rush
down the slopes of the Andes, creating intense flooding that could destroy households and livelihoods.
This risk is compounded by the instability of ice banks surrounding recently formed glacial lakes, which
are vulnerable to frequent serac avalanches. These avalanches propel ice chunks or rocks into the lakes,
creating shocks which can also cause sudden overflows or bursting ice banks. In March 2005, a large ice
chunk broke off the Quelccaya glacier resulting in a flood that inundated nearby lower grazing
grounds35.
Glacier melt also increases the likelihood of mudslides and rockslides, as it frees the rocky slopes
of the Andes Mountains that had been stabilized by the weight and tension of the glaciers. Further, the
Andes and the greater Pacific Coastline lie in a region of recurrent seismic activity, which can increase
the likelihood of rock slides, avalanches, and rupturing barriers in glacial lakes. The Peruvian
government acknowledged the risk posed by glacial lakes by introducing a surveillance program and
creating overflow tunnels, which have already been necessary; in 2002, overflow tunnels helped drain
the lake and prevent the loss of human life after an avalanche that launched several million rocks into
Laguan Safuna.36
Glacial lakes create a double-edged sword for abrupt climate change. Although they pose the
aforementioned risks, they are also crucial for storage for the river system that provides water to Peru’s
residents throughout the year, especially in dry seasons and along the Western coast37. This also
amplifies the impacts of any abrupt change, as a breach in a glacial lake will cause immediate natural
disasters but after it is breached will no longer function as a water source. The same is true with gradual
glacial melt, which initially increases runoff, but when the glaciers no longer exist there will be no extra
water supply in the dry season, resulting in abrupt changes in streamflow38. Decreasing water storage
capacity in glacial lakes and abrupt changes in streamflow create risks for potable water supply to
support Andean livelihoods. Such abrupt change coupled with changes in precipitation can cause severe
droughts, in a country with a history of droughts on its Western coast and an evidently high sensitivity to
changes in climate.
IMPACTS OF ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE ON PERUVIAN LIVELIHOODS
Water Scarcity
Peru is the most water-stressed state in South America due to its population distribution and
insufficient water supply. Most of the South American countries along the Pacific Coast, foremost being
Peru, depend upon water from glacial melt to augment their lacking water supplies. Approximately 70%
of Peru’s population lives in the coastal desert, where only 2% of Peru’s national water supply is
located39. Peru’s capital city Lima and the areas surrounding it are exceptionally reliant on glacial
waters, as urban growth increases vulnerability to water scarcity40. Further, many rural areas to the
West of the Andes have little or no alternative to glacial meltwater, which they utilize for various
purposes from agriculture and irrigation, to households and hydropower plants. The Economic and
Social Research Consortium (CIES) estimates that glacial melt will result in the loss of seven billion cubic
meters of fresh water, affecting water supplies throughout Peru and chiefly in Lima41.

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Peru’s freshwater supply is barely adequate to support its current population, as 2 million out of
the capital city Lima’s 8 million residents have no water service and several rural livelihood groups
already experience inconsistencies in supply or insufficient supply42. Changing climate conditions will
exacerbate episodes of water scarcity as well as lead to long-term, widespread water scarcity
throughout Peru. Estimates for the onset of water scarcity vary, especially given uncertainty in
demographic changes and the aforementioned uncertainty in climate modeling for Peru. Some suggest
very generally within the next two decades while others suggest more specifically that Peru will become
a water-scarce country by 202543. Nigel W. Arnell examined three potential abrupt changes in global
climate: regional cooling following thermohaline collapse, accelerated climate change due to positive
feedbacks, and “regime change” i.e. permanent ENSO conditions. Should these global phenomena
occur, Arnell found that between 33 and 63 million South Americans would experience an increase in
water scarcity by 2055. Accelerated climate change would have the greatest effect on water scarcity in
South America, increasing water stress for 63 million people by 2055 and 83 million people by 208544.
Glacial melt in the Cordillera Blanca effects both seasonal and inter-annual variation of runoff in
catchments. The melting of glaciers in the Cordillera can account for up to 100% of runoff during the
dryseason, and acts to supplement seasonal and annual variation in catchments; therefore glacier
retreat will decrease dryseason catchments. Approximately 71% of glacier melt in the Cordillera Blanca
drains to the Pacific Ocean via the Río Santa catchment, while nearly 29% drains to the Atlantic Ocean
via the Río Marañon catchment45. During the rainy season, the Río Santa catchment is fed by both
rainfall in the mountains and glacier melt, producing nearly 400 m3/s; yet in the dry season the rivers are
fed exclusively by glacier melt, only producing around 55 m3/s46. The Río Santa catchment is used
intensively for agriculture in areas such as the Callejon de Huaylas, for hydropower production in the
Cañon del Pato, and for both agriculture and industry in the large cities and rural communities along the
Pacific Coast47. However, the reservoir capacity of the Río Santa catchment basin is highly responsive to
variations in the rate of glacierization in the Cordillera Blanca. Therefore, livelihoods and industries that
rely on freshwater from the Río Santa catchment will be strongly impacted by changes in supply do to
glacial melt48. Unfortunately, despite existing climate modeling efforts, the knowledge about the impact
of glacier melt on freshwater catchments cannot be quantified49.
Following gradual glacier melt, Peru is subject to abrupt droughts and water shortages in its
already water stressed regions. Gradual glacial melt changes the pattern of water volume flowing into
rivers of respective catchment basins through two phases. In the first phase, the volume of freshwater
contributed to the catchment by accelerated glacial melt will be greater than that by precipitation; in
the second phase, the amount of non-glacierized area will increase and volume contributed by glacial
melt will decrease50. Therefore, glacier retreat may initially cause increases in water quantity to the Río
Santa catchment but run-off regulation will be drastically impacted following the disappearance of the
glaciers. Without the glaciers of the Cordillera, precipitation will not be naturally stored and glacial melt
will no longer contribute to the catchment quantity51. Uncertainty factors into the effects of abrupt
change with three concerns: when maximum discharge will occur, what is the minimum freshwater
supply following maximum discharge, and when will this minimum occur. Accurate predictions
regarding these three concerns vary, depending on whether modeling is calibrated to data from the past
twenty or fifty years, meaning that there will be little warning of abrupt climate change and ensuing
impacts52.
Declining Agricultural Productivity
While Peru holds 5% of the global freshwater supply, it is unevenly distributed throughout the
country, as over 98% available water is located in the rainforest east of the Andes while the greatest
agricultural need is experienced west of the Andes53. Greater than 50% of Peru’s agricultural products

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are produced along its water stressed coastal plains and the Western slopes of the Andes Mountains,
with agricultural inputs contributing 7.9% to Peru’s GDP. The majority of agricultural production is
intended for export, whereas Peru relies on imports and food aid for 43.9% of its net food
consumption54. Agriculture is responsible for nearly 85% of total water consumption in Peru, and its dry
cultivated land is highly dependent on runoff from the Cordillera to generate essential water supply.
Without runoff regulation by glaciers in the Cordillera, Peru will need to locate alternative water
supplies to sustain agricultural output55.
Agricultural production in Peru is already responsive to changes in climate conditions, with
domestic cereal production varying 22.4% annually compared to the global mean of 3.5%56. The
Peruvian Ministry of the Environment recently published its 2009 National Environmental Study which
confirms that climate change caused the loss of 80,000 hectares of potato and 60,000 hectares of white
corn in the past twelve crop years57. Climate affects many of the variables impacting Peru’s varying rate
of agricultural production including the seasonal relationship between temperature and water supply,
carbon dioxide concentrations, and both pests and diseases. Increasing carbon dioxide concentrations
can generate added productivity of staple food crops, yet may be offset by changes in temperature and
water supply. Nigel W. Arnell describes the interaction between agricultural productivity and
temperature, where increasing temperatures generally lead to longer growing seasons yet higher
temperatures that can cause heat stress and water shortage diminish productivity. Therefore, regions
such as Peru where production is limited by temperature or water supply will likely see the largest
reductions in agricultural productivity58. Fluctuations in Peru’s hydrological cycle are anticipated yet
very uncertain, ranging from a potential permanent ENSO state to decreases in gradual glacial melt,
therefore their impact is also difficult to assess. The unreliable water supply generated by anticipated
changes in hydrological patterns will exacerbate agricultural and ecosystem stresses, therein negatively
affecting biodiversity and productivity.
Therefore, due to increased carbon dioxide concentrations, temperatures, and gradual glacial
melt, agricultural production may increase significantly in the short term. Employment in the
agricultural sector is currently expanding, especially in the agricultural areas surrounding Lima, and will
likely continue to do so in the near future59. However, short term increases will likely be followed by
drastic and potentially abrupt decreases in agricultural production due either to abrupt climate events
such as flooding or to droughts following glacial melt. Therefore, livelihoods reliant on agriculture for
subsistence are highly vulnerable in the long term to the agricultural impacts of abrupt climate change,
especially given poor infrastructure in many rural farming areas and less developed areas60.
Current commercial agricultural practices within Peru may exacerbate the potential effects of
abrupt climate change. Agricultural practices formerly reserved for small livelihoods groups interfered
less with hydrological practices than current intensive use in the Páramo for livestock grazing and pine
planting. Such demanding uses change runoff patterns, increase erosion, and transform evaporation,
gradually changing the hydrological cycle61. Intense cultivation of already water stressed lands also
contributes to hydrological change, and increases the need for irrigation. These practices will continue
under the short term anticipated increase in agricultural production. As higher temperatures make land
easier to cultivate in the Andes and population increases, irrigation needs will grow62.
In direct livelihoods terms, small farms may not be impacted as highly as large farms because
larger farms are generally more specialized in crop production and therefore cannot adapt as easily to
changing climate conditions. However, for those small farms located near the margins of subsistence or
the margins of abrupt climate change, any changing conditions resulting in declining production will
increase rural poverty. The World Bank estimates that Latin America as a whole will suffer losses of US
$35.1 billion to $120 billion annually from declining agricultural production. As each livelihood group

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possesses a different level of economic mobility, the livelihoods level impacts of declining agricultural
production continue to be uncertain63.
Impacts on Hydropower Production
Hydropower is the most widely used form of renewable energy worldwide, and will be greatly
impacted by changes in glacial melt. Peru relies on hydropower for up to 80% of its energy generation,
from many rivers fed by glaciers or glacial lakes. While accelerated glacial melt should initially increase
energy generation, seasonal variations in hydrological patterns will make any increases inconsistent.
The industries responsible for generating and capable of regulating hydropower production, such as
engineering and construction industries, will be pressed to utilize water more efficiently as sudden
increases in glacial flows may be followed by even more sudden decreases in flows.
Following glacial melt, Peru may experience drastic decreases in hydropower capacity as glacial
melt will no longer contribute to river flows. 15 hydropower plants totaling 2,480 MW of power
production rely on glacier runoff, including the Mantaro River plant which generates 32% of Peru’s total
electricity and supplies power to 70% of Peru’s industry yet is also one of the most negatively impacted
hydropower plants.64 Without contributions of water supply from glacial melt, hydropower industries
will need to build more storage dams or design other technologies to help sustain production.
Currently, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change classifies the lack of
water for hydropower generation throughout western South America as “critical,” namely in Peru,
Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador65.
Reductions in Biodiversity
The eastern Andes form the most biologically diverse area in the world. Latin America is home
to 27% of the world’s mammals, 37% of plants, 37% of reptiles, and 43% of amphibians. According to
the World Bank, Peru is one of the world’s ten most biologically diverse countries and one of the fifteen
countries in which fauna are most vulnerable to extinction66. Climate change can impact biodiversity by
changing ecosystem types in specific regions and by changing the variety and amount of species within a
given ecosystem type. In general, species most at risk are those near the climatic limits of ecosystem
type or with the very specialized habitat requirements. In Peru, temperature increases can lead to
upward ecosystem shifts, i.e. boreal forests replacing tundra, although ecosystems cannot adjust faster
than 0.05°C per decade67. Temperature rise can cause desertification in mountain habitats that house
extensive biodiversity and threaten critical mountain habitats. The habitats of cold-climate species such
as mountain tapirs, anurans, and high-altitude flora will drastically decrease with temperature increases
as great as 3°-4°C during the twenty-first century.
Species within the Páramos, which are unique even within Peru itself, are among the most
vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The ecosystem services provided by the Páramos are
already being impacted by temperature change and experiencing severe reductions in population of
mountain flora and fauna68. As dew points shift in altitudinal location due to temperature change, the
formation of clouds and precipitation patterns can change which may disrupt cloud forests, also an
important source of biodiversity. Changes in hydrological patterns in Peru following glacial melt
threatens water supply to ecosystems, could cause a decrease in forest cover on western Andes slopes,
and lead to desertification along the coast. Furthermore, these potential changes are immediate,
irreversible, and cumulative69.
Spread of Disease
One of the most difficult impacts to quantify is the effects of climate change on the
development of disease vectors in Peru, and the ensuing impacts on health, morbidity, and mortality.

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Changing climate conditions can alter the distribution of disease vectors and increase their frequency
following abrupt climate events. Flooding, a highly probable form of abrupt climate change can
dramatically increase the frequency of disease vectors which have climatic limitations. Such disease
vectors may currently be limited by lower temperatures yet may be able to survive in the higher
temperatures of the twenty-first century. During past El Niño events, flooding has resulted in epidemics
throughout northern coastal regions of Peru, dermatological diseases relative to summer temperature
increases, and hypothermia relative to heat waves70.
Further, the IPCC ranks mortality and morbidity resulting from abrupt climate events second to
malnutrition as the most significant health impacts of climate change worldwide. Malnutrition and the
spread of diseases such as malaria and cholera are probable in Peru71. However, areas such as Peru’s
coast which forecast drought and drier conditions may experience a decrease in malaria and the spread
of disease, as there may be less standing water for disease vectors to breed72.
Peru’s crop production may also suffer from increased spread of disease, with fungal diseases in
maize, potatoes, wheat, and beans becoming more common with increased rainfall and humidity. Peru
has already felt the effects of such diseases during recent El Niño events73. Additional global health
impacts possible in Peru include cardiorespiratory diseases from decreases in air quality, temperature-
related health effects like heat stress, and increasing water-borne diseases from excess capacity in
sewage systems74. While much more research is necessary to understand the potential impacts of
climate change on disease in Peru, initial reports predict increased potential for disease transmission
and uncertain changes in mortality during dry and hot seasons.75
Temperature Forced Deforestation
As the Amazon basin to the east of the Andes forms a significant source of moisture within
Peru’s hydrological patterns and regional atmospheric circulation, deforestation and changes in land
cover can considerably impact Peru’s climate. Further, changes in land cover will impact the carbon
cycle and likely exacerbate regional climate change76. However, Peru is subject to intense land use
changes as a result of temperature increases and changing precipitation patterns. The boreal forests on
the western slope of the Andes and the Amazon basin are vulnerable to temperature-forced
deforestation, wherein forests die due to changes in temperature, and both show evidence that large
scale die off may already be occurring as Peru’s forest cover decreased by 0.4% from 1990-2000 77.
Temperature forced deforestation may in turn exacerbate glacial melt due to feedback
mechanisms. As an area of tropical forest dies due to higher temperatures or drought, the rate at which
adjacent areas of forest undergo the same effect is commonly accelerated by feedback mechanisms.
Without necessary soil nutrients, forests can rapidly become bare which raises temperatures, reduces
precipitation, and can lead to biome flip. If deforestation is great enough, these feedbacks can also
disrupt water supplies along the Amazon and other crucial rivers, negatively impact global carbon
balance, increase temperatures further, and accelerate glacial melt in the Andes. Despite the
uncertainty of these complex feedback effects, they are possible and have occurred throughout climate
history, as in Saharan Africa approximately 5500 years ago78.
Impacts on Culture and Tourism
Peru’s economy will be most significantly altered by changes in agricultural and hydropower
production as a result of future climate conditions. However, Peru’s tourism industry will also be
directly affected by the changing climate in the Andes, which currently contributes an estimated $3.6
million to Peru’s economy. The Andes Mountains, especially Peru’s tallest mountain Mt. Huascaran,
generate revenue from mountain climbing, biking, canoeing and rafting, with the latter two entirely
dependent on water resources. Such uses created a significant local tourism and recreation industry

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that is very vulnerable transformations in glaciers and mountain geography resulting from abrupt
climate change79.
Glacier retreat has already affected the Quechua and Aymara cultures of Peru, who find
spiritual, religious, and healing value in the glaciers of the Andes Mountains. For these cultures, the
glaciated peaks, or apus, are considered religions icons. The apus are held responsible for water sources
and soil fertility by serving as the residence for the Illapa, a god revered for its ability to produce water
and damage crops through hail. Until the ritual was recently outlawed due to ablation, tens of
thousands of Peruvians practiced the Qoyllur Riti pilgrimage by climbing to a glacier that faces the glacial
peak of Ausangate to collect portions of ice and distribute them on their fields to ensure fertility. While
this impact may not be as dire as water scarcity, economic distress, and loss of hydropower production,
it will threaten the way of life for entire livelihoods groups within Peruvian society80.

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6
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7
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12
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18
Georges, Christian. "20th-Century Glacier Fluctuations in the Tropical Cordillera Blanca, Peru." Arctic, Antarctic,
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20
Georges, Christian. "20th-Century Glacier Fluctuations in the Tropical Cordillera Blanca, Peru." Arctic, Antarctic,
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21
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22
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and Alpine Research (Regents of the University of Colorado) 36, no. 1 (2004): 100-107.
23
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Tropical Andes: Observations and Model Results." Climatic Change (Kluwer Academic Publishers), 2003: 75-99.

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27
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29
Urrutia, Rocío and Mathias Vuille. "Climate change projections for the tropical Andes using a reigonal climate
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Research (American Geophysical Union) 114, no. D02108 (January 2009): 1-15.
30
Urrutia, Rocío, and Mathias Vuille. "Climate change projections for the tropical Andes using a reigonal climate
model: Temperature and precipitation simulations for the end of the 21st century." Journal of Geophysical
Research (American Geophysical Union) 114, no. D02108 (January 2009): 1-15.
31
Urrutia, Rocío, and Mathias Vuille. "Climate change projections for the tropical Andes using a reigonal climate
model: Temperature and precipitation simulations for the end of the 21st century." Journal of Geophysical
Research (American Geophysical Union) 114, no. D02108 (January 2009): 1-15.
32
Buytaert, Wouter, et al. "Human impact on the hydrology of the Andean páramos." Earth-Science Reviews 79
(July 2006): 53-72.
33
Kaser, Georg, Christian Georges, Irmgard Juen, and Thomas Mölg. Low Latitude Glaciers: Unique Global Climate
Indicators and Essential Contributors to Regional Fresh Water Supply. A Conceptual Approach. Tropical Glaciology
Group, Department of Geography, Innsbruck Austria: Innsbruck University, 2003.
34
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Spang, Edward. Alpine Lakes and Glaciers in Peru: Managing Sources of Water & Destruction. Tufts Institute of
the Environment Research, 2006.
38
Bradley, Raymond S., Mathias Vuille, Henry F. Diaz, and Walter Vergara. "Threats to Water Supplies in the
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39
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43
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Spang, Edward. Alpine Lakes and Glaciers in Peru: Managing Sources of Water & Destruction. Tufts Institute of the
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44
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Change Research, 2006, 1-29.
45
Georges, Christian. "20th-Century Glacier Fluctuations in the Tropical Cordillera Blanca, Peru." Arctic, Antarctic,
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46
Spang, Edward. Alpine Lakes and Glaciers in Peru: Managing Sources of Water & Destruction. Tufts Institute of
the Environment Research, 2006.
Chevallier, Pierre, Bernard Pouyaud, and Wilson Suarez. "Global Forum on Sustainable Development." Climate
Change Impacts on the Water Resources from the Mountains in Peru. Paris, France: Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development, Environment Directorate, Environment Policy Committee, 2004. 1-13.
47
Kaser, Georg, Irmgard Juen, Christian Georges, Jesús Gómez, and William Tamayo. The impact of glaicers on the
runoff and the reconstruction of mass balance history from hydrological data in teh tropical Cordillera Blanca, Perú.
Unidad de Glaciologia y Recursos Hidricos, Huaraz, Peru, Innsbruck, Austria: Institut für Geographie, 2001.
48
Kaser, Georg, Christian Georges, Irmgard Juen, and Thomas Mölg. Low Latitude Glaciers: Unique Global Climate
Indicators and Essential Contributors to Regional Fresh Water Supply. A Conceptual Approach. Tropical Glaciology
Group, Department of Geography, Innsbruck Austria: Innsbruck University, 2003.
49
Kaser, Georg, Irmgard Juen, Christian Georges, Jesús Gómez, and William Tamayo. The impact of glaicers on the
runoff and the reconstruction of mass balance history from hydrological data in teh tropical Cordillera Blanca, Perú.
Unidad de Glaciologia y Recursos Hidricos, Huaraz, Peru, Innsbruck, Austria: Institut für Geographie, 2001.
Juen, Irmgard, Georg Kaser, and Christian Georges. "Modelling observed and future runoff from a glacierized
tropical catchment (Cordillera Blanca, Perú)." Global and Planetary Change 59 (1 2007): 37-48.
50
Chevallier, Pierre, Bernard Pouyaud, and Wilson Suarez. "Global Forum on Sustainable Development." Climate
Change Impacts on the Water Resources from the Mountains in Peru. Paris, France: Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development, Environment Directorate, Environment Policy Committee, 2004. 1-13.
51
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and Caribbean Reigon Sustainable Development Working Paper 32, Latin America and the Caribbean Region
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Chevallier, Pierre, Bernard Pouyaud, and Wilson Suarez. "Global Forum on Sustainable Development." Climate
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Cooperation and Development, Environment Directorate, Environment Policy Committee, 2004. 1-13.
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Lubovich, Kelley. The Coming Crisis: Water Insecurity in Peru. FESS Issue Brief, Foundation for Environmental
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