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The Anthropocene

In South America, the climate future has arrived.

Across the region, the price of historic dryness is being measured in lost crops, a slowdown in mining, surging transportation costs and shortages of energy in a region heavily dependent on hydropower.

Chile, is caught in the vortex of a 13-year drought, its longest and most severe in 1,000 years. The government has declared an agricultural emergency in 8 of its 16 regions and is offering aid to stricken farmers. Some regions are registering rainfall losses of between 62 and 80%.

Bolivia’s drought is lingering after two brutally dry years that saw millions of acres burned by wildfires.

The worst drought in nearly a century is forming in parts of Brazil. The Paraná River — one of the principal trade routes in South America’s Southern Cone, second on the continent only to the Amazon in length and flow — has been reduced in some stretches to a stream.

Total cereal output in Argentina was 12.7 million tons in 2020. The number is expected to fall to 11.4 million in 2021 and 10.9 million in 2022, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. In the longer term, the World Bank warns, changes in weather patterns could cause corn and wheat yields in some parts of the country to fall by 80%.

Analysts fear the droughts are a harbinger of a new normal, portending consistently lower crop yields in the future.