Climate change has various impacts on the three North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the US. Canada and the US have well-developed adaptive capacities and foster the strengthening of capacities in other regions as well. With high per capita emissions, these two countries also bear a greater responsibility for a changing climate. Mexico has a sound national strategy for climate change adaptation, yet fewer capacities than Canada and the US. The poorer and rural populations of Mexico are especially vulnerable to climate change, due to an increased sensitivity and a lower adaptive capacity.
Extreme weather events such as hurricanes cause flooding and devastation across the Americas, affecting Mexican shorelines and the Southern US. These events can also trigger oil spills particularly in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas with their large extraction capacities.
Water scarcity is very pronounced in the Southwestern US and parts of Mexico, and set to increase as the climate changes, with implications for agricultural productivity. Environmental migration is one of the consequences.
Energy generation: oil extracted from tar sands, abundant in the Canadian province of Alberta, is even more damaging to the environment than conventional oil extraction, and worse still, possible additional pipelines are set to cut through protected areas. While unconventional natural gas extraction (fracking) fares better in terms of emissions, it also has devastating impacts on the landscape, affecting areas with large reserves such as Pennsylvania.
Climate change risks:
Droughts also increasingly affect areas such as the US Great Plains, severely damaging the agricultural sector.
Hurricanes are likely to occur more frequently and with greater intensity, affecting large parts of the region.
The melting Arctic provides an opportunity to access seabed fossil fuel resources, and it will open up new shipping routes and improve existing ones.
Socio-economic and socio-political challenges:
Canada and the US are politically stable and have a high adaptive capacity. But even so, natural disasters can cause immense damage, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although Mexico has less adaptive capacity than its northern neighbours and faces planning and managerial shortcomings, the country has a comprehensive strategy for addressing climate change challenges.
In North America, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), established through an environmental side accord to the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) facilitates collaboration and public participation to foster environmental conservation and protection.
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