Oquist: Nicaragua can’t wait on climate change

Nicaragua’s “green revolution” is about merging national development planning with disaster planning, according to presidential advisor Paul Oquist. Part III in a special series on Nicaragua’s renewable energy revolution.

There’s a lot of hot air in Nicaragua these days, and some of it’s due to global warming. 

Over the past 50 years, Nicaragua’s average temperature has increased by three degrees centigrade. Farmers and meteorologists have noticed a marked change in seasonal temperatures and rain cycles, and government officials say climate change is already costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars a year in lost crops and disaster response.

“Since 2006, we are losing $200 million a year in lost agro-production due to climate change,” says Dr. Paul Oquist, President Daniel Ortega’s private advisor for national development policies and the Sandinistas’ representative to world climate change forums. “That’s 9% of what’s been planted each year. So our development in Nicaragua is already being affected by climate change.”

The problem, Oquist says, is that the big industrial countries of the world continue to fiddle while Rome burns—or, in this case, Mesoamerica.

“The results from Durban (the world climate change conference last December) are very disturbing,” Oquist told The Nicaragua Dispatch during a recent interview. “The International energy agency says that if we don’t start reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2017, the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees this century won’t be met. And what will that mean for Central America, where the temperature has already risen three degrees in the past 50 years? Are we talking about another four-or-five-degree increase in a country where the average temperature is already 26 degrees Centigrade?”

Oquist says the continued climb in temperature would spell disaster for Nicaragua’s agricultural-based economy. It would also offer new relevance to nattering taxicab drivers who invariably ask, “It sure is hot today, right?”

“This would have major implications for all the crops,” Oquist said. “Take coffee: In Nueva Segovia, Jinotega and Matagalpa, the band where you produce high-quality coffee is now 1,300 meters above sea level. If the temperature rises, you go to 1,350 meters, and then 1,400, then 1,500…and the mountains are not that high here. Eventually, you run out of mountain and you run out of the coffee industry.”

Dr. Paul Oquist (photo/ Tim Rogers)

The situation is grim, he says, and Nicaragua can’t wait any longer for the developed world to take the lead on mitigating climate change. That’s especially true considering the money promised as part of the $30 billion Green Climate Fund—a fund created in 2009 as a way for developing countries to provide money to underdeveloped countries to mitigate against climate change—has never materialized.

“We don’t see action from the developed countries in terms of curbing greenhouse emissions to put the brakes on this, nor do we see or feel the new additional and sufficient financing that was promised,” Oquist says.

The Nicaraguan policy expert says the global response to climate change has become, “A closed game of the richest and the most powerful who are also the world’s largest emitters.”

As a result, Nicaragua is taking the bull by the horns.

“Nicaragua is not waiting at all for the global community. Nicaragua is seeking national solutions and regional solutions on the Central America level,” Oquist said.

Part of the solution was the creation of the Army’s new Eco-Battalion, which is taking aim at deforestation as a way to crackdown on deforestation and mitigate the effects of climate change before it’s too late.

“Mitigation is one of the top priorities of President Ortega; that’s why the Nicaraguan government is so engaged in the international negotiations,” Oquist said. “It’s also why Nicaragua is so involved in making sure that the national planning and national disaster planning merge—they are now basically the same thing now, because you can’t plan the development of the economy without taking into account that every year there are climatic affectations.”

  • https://www.facebook.com/jim.bier jim bier

    Temperature changes of this magnitude in the subtropics are likely to be due in large part to deforestation, an environmental challenge amenable to local and regional education and response. Coppicing for firewood in a greatly expanded program of agroforestry, and biogas for cooking can address that component.

  • Gerd Schnepel

    So, nearly nothing is done! Eco-Batallion is far away from being effective. It stops some little things here, and some there. But not the total of destruction. And the environmental laws are not applied at all, especially if rich people and politicians and their famlies and amiguitos are involved (a phenomenon, which is called corruption).

    Oquist names some agriculture problems, but his only answer to mitigation is that the Eco-Bats are trying to stop part of the deforestation. Not convincing at all. Mitigation is priority he says, and we do not wait for the global North to find solutions, THEREFORE we are active in international negotiations. Funny.

    What is needed as an unavoidable first step would be the complete change of Nicaragua’s way, how to do its mayor economic activity, agriculture. This would mean bring down cattle to reasonable numbers, forbid externalization of cattle ranching costs and make them pay in money all the consequences of their unsustainable activity. Change production to ecologically sound agroforestry, forbid veggie diesel production. But these are changes too radical for the revolutionaries. Although O. & O. want to stay in power another 30 years, they still do not dare to start the urgent changes (probably because big money does not allow it). And the lack of vision and creativity and a responsability ahead of daily power play events in their hot capital Managua.

  • Nick

    There should be active encouragement and promotion of tree planting — reforestation of lands essential for water sources and non-mono-crop plantations for commercial lumber production.

  • http://resolutionspc.blogspot.ca/ Terence

    This is a very interesting time concerning the health of Nicaragua. Hopefully the universities are challenging their students by empowering a new ways of thinking and acting to address the different levels of inaction I read here. I am looking forward to visiting your country for the first time.

    Thank you.