Climate Change And Mexico Essay Research Paper

Climate Change And Mexico Essay, Research Paper

Climate Change And Mexico

The Effect of Increased Greenhouse Gasses on Mexico and it s Effort to Reduce Environmental Damage


For over a hundred years, scientists have been carefully gathering and verifying data on the earth s temperature. The latest data reveals some striking trends:

All 10 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the last 15 years

The 1990 s have already been warmer than the 1980 s- the warmest decade on record

The global average surface temperature has risen 0.5 degrees (site source)

For the first time ever, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the authoritative international body charged with studying this issue, concluded that the observed increase in global average temperature over the last century “is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin” and that “the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate.”

The Earth s climate is the result of extremely complex interactions among the atmosphere, the oceans, the land masses, and living organisms, which are all warmed daily by the sun s enormous energy. This heat would radiate back into space if not for the atmosphere, which relies on a delicate balance of heat-trapping gases, including water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, to act as a natural “greenhouse,” keeping in just the right amount of the sun s energy to support life.

For the past 150 years, though, the atmospheric concentrations of these gases, particularly carbon dioxide. Have been rising. As a result, more heat is being trapped than previously, which in turn is causing the global temperature to rise. Climate scientists have linked the increased levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere to human activities, in particular the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas for heating and electricity; gasoline for transportation) deforestation, cattle ranching, and rice farming.

Scientists still cannot predict the exact impact on the earth s climate of these rising levels of heat-trapping gases over the next century. But there is striking agreement among most climate scientists about what is likely to occur. Increasingly sophisticated climate models suggest that the planet will warm over the next century at a more rapid rate than ever before recorded. The current best estimate from the Intergovernmental Panel is that if carbon dioxide concentrations double over preindustrial levels, global average surface temperatures will rise between 1.8 degrees and 6.3 degrees F. According to the Panel s range of possible scenarios, an atmospheric doubling of carbon dioxide could occur as early as 2050. Future impacts worldwide from this kind of warming will most likely include: damage to human health, severe stress on forests, wetlands, and other natural habitats, dislocation of agriculture and commerce, expansion of the earth s deserts, melting of the polar ice caps and consequent rise in the sea level, and more extreme weather events [on-line] (Available: warming)

This paper will discuss some impacts of global climate change on Mexico, what action Mexico is taking toward sustainable development (ie. Population conferences, earth summits, etc.), how Mexico is treating it s environment presently, and background information of Mexico will be presented.


Most of Mexico is an immense, elevated plateau, flanked by mountain ranges that fall sharply off to narrow coastal plains in the west and east. The two mountain chains, the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental in the east, meet in a region called La Junta in the southeast. At La Junta the two ranges form the Sierra Madre del Sur, a maze of volcanic mountains containing the highest peaks in Mexico. The Sierra Madre Del Sur leads into the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which lies between the Bay of Campeche and the Gulf of Tecuantepec. The prominent topographical feature of the country is the central plateau, a continuation of the plains of the southwestern U.S. Comprising more that half the total area of Mexico, the plateau slopes downward from the west to the east and from the south, where the elevation varies from about 1830 to 2440 m above sea level, to the north with an elevation of about 1070 to 1220 m. Two large valleys form notable depressions in the plateau: the Bolson de Mapimi in the north and the Valley of Mexico, or Anahuac, in central Mexico (Encyclopedia Brittanica, CD 1997).

Mexico has few major rivers, and most are not navigable. The longest river is the Rio Grande, which extends along the Mexican-U.S. border. Other important rivers include the Panuco, Grijalva, and Usumacinta in the south and the Conchos in the north. Mexico has few good harbors. Tampico, Varacruz Llave, and Coatzacoalcos (Puerto Mexico) are major Gulf of Mexico ports. Pacific ports include Acapulco de Juarez, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, and Salina Cruz. Lake Chapala, in the west, is the largest inland body of water. The Valley of Mexico cantains several shallow lakes (Encyclopedia Brittanica, CD 1997).

Mexico is besected by the Tropic of Cancer; therefore, the southern half is included in the Torrid Zone. In general, climate varies with altitude. The tierra caliente (hot land) includes the low coastal plains, extending from sea level to about 914 m. Weather is extremely humid, with temperatures varying from 15.6< to 21.1< C. The tierra fria (cold land) exstends from about 1830 to 2745 m. The average temperature range is 15 to 17.2 C (Encyclopedia Brittanica, CD 1997).

The rainy season lasts from May to October. Although sections of southern Mexico recieve from about 990 to 3000 mm of rain a year, most of Mexico lacks adequate rainfall. Rainfall averages less than 635 mm in the tierra fria, and about 254 mm in the semiarid north.

The mineral resources of Mexico are extremely rich and varied. Almost every known mineral is found, including coal, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, silver, gold, copper, lead, and zinc. Proveen petroleum and natural-gas reserves are enormous, with some of the world s largest deposits located offshore, in the Bay of Campeche. Forests and woodland, which cover about 23 percent of the land, contain such valuable woods as mahogany, ebony, walnut, and rosewood. About 13 percent of the land is suitable for agriculture, but less than 10 percent receives enough rainfall for raising crops without irrigation (Encyclopedia Brittanica, CD 1997).

The Mexican population is composed of three main groups: the people of Spanish descent, the Indians, and the people of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry, or mestizos. Of these groups, the mestizos are by far the largest, constituting about 60 percent of the population. The Indians total about 30 percent. The society is semi-industrialized. The population of Mexico at the 1990 census was 81,140,922. The estimated population density is 1990 was about 41 persons per sq km. About 73 percent of Mexicans lived in urban areas, with a good majority of them in Mexico city alone (Encyclopedia Brittanica, CD 1997).

The Republic of Mexico covers a total of 1.97 million sq. Km. As one of the world s most strategically positioned countries, Mexico shares it s entire 3,218 km northern border with the United States, and in the southeast, it borders Guatemala and Belize along 1,126.3 km. On one coastline, Mexico faces the fast-growing markets of the Pacific Rim; on the other, Europe. The country s topography offers the international investor a wide range of locations. It is the fourteenth largest country in the world and the fifth largest in the Americas. Mexico compares in size to the area of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy and Germany combined.

Mexico is a pluralistic and open society. Recent reforms provide equitable balance of power. The Government of Mexico is a constitutional, federal republic, comprising 31 states the Federal District of Mexico City. The government is divided into three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. The President, elected by direct popular vote, serves a six-year term and is not eligible for reelection. The country s current President, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce do Leon, took office on December 1, 1994. [on-line] (Available:

The President is supported by a “Cabinte of Ministers” appointed directly by him. The center of the Judiciary system is the Supreme court of Justice, the country s highest court. Justices are appointed by the President and appointments are ratified by the Senate. There are three levels of representative government: federal, state, and municipal. The structure of the state governments mirrors that of the federal government, and the state governors are also elected for a six-year term. State legislatures are formed by locally-elected Representatives. Local judges re appointed to implement state laws. [on-line] (Available:

In recent years, the Mexican economy has undergone unprecedented changes. This has been the result of an adjustment process which began in 1983 and intensified from December 1987 onward with the signing of the Economic Solidarity Pact, as part of a strategy of stabilization and structural reform. Structural reforms complemented and supported the stabilization process. They increased in importance an widened their scope as the reforms gained momentum and political support. The aim of these reforms goes well beyond the immediate task of stabilizing the economy. They form part of a fundamental reorientation in the government s development strategy, aimed at greatly increasing the role of market forces in the economy. [on-line] (Available:

The strategy followed has laid the foundations for sustained development, and has sought to increase per capita income through greater efficiency of the industrial base in an environment of macroeconomic stability. During the 1989-1993 period, GDP grew at an average annual rate 2.9 percent, higher than the population growth rate. Gross fixed investment as a proportion of GDP grew from 17 percent in 1988 to 20.7 percent of GDP in 1993. Inflation, which reached an annual rate of 159.9 percent in 1987, came down to a level of 8 percent.

Mexico is still clearly an LDC, but recent economic stability has shown it is an up and coming world economic power.

Mexico and the warming

Mexico, while a member of seven IGO s, (Convention of Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, Ozone layer convention, Global Environment Facility, International Maritime Organization, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, and the United Nations Population Fund) [on-line], (Available:, has done little to combat global warming or take care of it s own environment (Ross, 1992). Economic progress is presently taking priority over environmental issues, such as global warming or saving it s own tropical rainforests (Pennypacker, 1997). Chemical-intensive industrial coffee farms are at the moment, are responsible for most of the destruction.

Diana Liverman of the Pennsylvania University, using five major global climate models, has projected that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (forecasted to happen by the year 2050, if things stay the same) will enevidibly raise temperature by 5 degrees C, in Mexico City. Air pollution levels are also expected to rise as carbon dioxide levels rise [on-line]

The CO2 level rise is forecasted to decrease soil moisture in the basin of Mexico. Water planning will have serious complications, where fresh, drinkable water is already of short supply.

Aside from Climate Change, another major ecological problem for Mexico is their decades of pesticide use (Simonian, 1988).


There seems to be now end is sight for the destruction of Mexico s ecosystems. As a third world LDC, economic progress has priority over environmental problems. Mexico presently spends less that 1percent of it s total GDP on saving it s environment (Pope, 1997). This will just not suffice. In addition to the problems mentioned, it s population is growing and Energy Secretary Jesus Reyes Heroles is moving to help build coal burning, private electric power pants in Mexico, adding to the air quality problems and already out of control carbon dioxide emissions (Malkin, 1996).

Unless something is done immediately, the average temperature in Mexico will rise, and it s whole country will become deserts, dry grass and brush [on-line]. This in turn will mean a much shorter growing season, food loss, and most of all population loss.


A brief view of the organization of the Mexican Republic. [on-line]

Carnigie Mellon University page on Global Warming. [on-line]

Green Globe Yearbook 1997: Relations to main international agreements and IGO s. [on-line]

Greenpeace: Mexico likely to be drier… [on-line]

Impacts of global warming. [on-line]

Malkin, E. (1996) Is there light as the end of the power grid: Mexico is making it easier to build private electricity plants. Business Week, 3475, 116.

Pennypacker, M. (1997) Habitat-saving habit. Sierra, 82, 18.

Pope, C. (1997) Paying the price for free trade (impact of NAFTA on Mexico). Sierra, 82, 14-15.

Ross, J. (1992) Dangers in paradise (economic progress vs. Environmental protection in southern Mexico). Sierra, 77, 44-51.

Simonian, L. (1988) Pesticide use in Mexico: decades of abuse. The Ecologist, 18, 82-87.


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