PHOTO: DYN/ALBERTO RAGGIO.

Recent studies undertaken by the National Meteorological Service have shown that the average temperature in the Argentine capital have risen 1 degree since 1960, at an average of 0.14 per decade. Now that might not sound like a lot, but the overall effect of that change is nothing to be laughed at.

In a report presented at the C40 (a group of 40 cities formed to combat climate change) conference this week, the Buenos Aires government revealed that average temperatures in the city have seen an increase of 0.8°C in the Central Observatory in Buenos Aires and 1°C at the Airport observatory from average temperatures from 1961-1970 to 2011-2014.

The rise in temperature in Buenos Aires, very similar to the overall global temperature increase (0.88°C), has brought with it a variety of contingent meteorological effects, the majority of which make life here, particularly in summer, a little less bearable.

“Rainfall rates have registered an increase of between 27% and 32% from 1961-1970 and 2011-2014,” the city’s government added in their report. And what’s more concerning about that figure is that the average amount of days it rains each year has not changed. Essentially that means that the intensity of rainfall has increased a mammoth 30%, and that, according to Ines Camilloni, a researcher from the Center of Marine and Atmospheric Investigations of Conicet, “creates [a] serious environmental impact”. “We have to search for ways to adapt,” added the environmental expert.

Starting to see how that 1 degree is a little more significant that it sounds? Well the consequences don’t stop there. The changes observed in the study by the Buenos Aires government also imply a negative effect on the population’s health. Viruses such as Dengue, Zika and Chikungunya, for example, shouldn’t really be a problem at this latitude but the observed increases in humidity and temperature mean a more favorable environment for the vectors carrying the diseases.

Not ideal, but unfortunately very real. So what to do now? Well if you’re heading out, don’t forget your sunscreen, insect repellent and water. But obviously, that’s not going to change the wider picture. Any degree of tangible change to this dire and worsening situation will require intensive and comprehensive action.

“We’re focusing on aiming to reduce the causes and effects to climate change,” declared Eduardo Macchiavelli, the Minister of environment and public spaces. And the principal cause, as I’m sure we all know – think back to those 5th grade science classes – are pollutant gases which trap the sun’s heat within our atmosphere.

In Buenos Aires, lighting, cooling, heating and natural gas use account for 58% of those emissions, followed by transport (28%) and waste (14%). And the City’s authorities are already taking measures to reduce those emissions. “We’re already in the process of installing 96,200 LED lights; we’re going to create 110 hectares of green space, we’re reducing the amount of garbage that gets buried and we’re improving the water system”, added Macchiavelli.

historical contributions to global warming
Data showing the countries with the greatest historical contributions to global warming, in total and per capita. Argentina ranks high in both cases. Credit to Concordia University’s H Damon Matthews et al.

But is that enough? Compared to other countries in the region, signs of climate change have been more extreme in Argentina but the measures being taken to combat the change are fewer to a great extent.

historical contributions map
Compared to neighbors Chile and Uruguay, Argentina’s historical contribution to global warming has been very high. Credit to Concordia University’s H Damon Matthews et al.

In neighboring Uruguay, for example, temperature and precipitation increase in the same time period has been markedly lower (0.8 degrees compared to 1 degree and 10% compared to around 30% increase in precipitation). Uruguay, along with Chile, have been the leading figures in the region in tackling the all-too-real changes that are affecting the region’s climate. According to a recent metric developed by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Argentina is not as well prepared to face the problems presented by climate change as its neighbors. The metric, which calculated overall percentage ratings for 175 countries’ readiness to tackle climate change, gave Argentina a 57.3% rating, while Chile leads the way in the region with 68%, followed by Uruguay with 62.6%.

Now it seems like it is a priority of the Buenos Aires government to change those figures, as it works together with the other cities of the C40 to combat climate change. As the nation’s neighbors lead the way in terms of low-level contribution to global warming and readiness to implement measures to change the ever-worsening environmental situation, it’s time for Buenos Aires, and Argentina, to step up.