Vulnerability to drought and
climate change in Mexico
Diana M. Liverman
In the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, thousands of hectares of tropical forest have been destroyed in the last hundred years. Timber companies, followed by ranchers and coffee producers, converted biologically diverse, soil-protecting forests into barren and desiccated landscapes (O'Brien 1997). Additional destruction of forests has accompanied the search for petroleum resources in the region and an influx of impoverished refugees from Central America and migrants from other parts of Mexico seeking farmland (Gonzalez-Pacheco 1983).
In Mexico City, contamination of air and water has already reached fatal or disabling levels for many residents of the metropolis, with increases in respiratory and cardiac diseases, gastrointestinal problems, cancer, poisoning and other toxic exposures (Aguilar et al. 1995; Ezcurra et al. 1999; Ezcurra and Mazari Hiriart 1996; Ortiz 1987; Puente and Legoretta 1988). Pollution has become a major political issue, and has prejudiced the international business and tourist reputation of the city.
In northern Mexico, 1989 was a year of severe drought and heat stress. As in the United States in 1988, people connected this drought with the predictions of global warming associated with the greenhouse effect and linked it to forecasts of the lowest agricultural production in nine years and a corresponding increase in malnutrition and expensive food imports.
These are localized examples of the types of global environmental changes that may face the world in the coming decades. Environmental changes in Mexico are typical of many countries and have similar social