THIS LARGE LATIN American country occupies the southeastern part of South America, covering 1,073,514 sq. mi. (2,766,890 sq. km.), with a population of 40,301,927 (2007 est.), of whom some 12 million live in Buenos Aires, the capital, giving the country a population density of 36 people per sq. mi. (13.7 people per sq. km.), although this varies from 14,651 people per sq. km. in Buenos Aires, to 1.4 people per sq. km. in Patagonia. Nine percent of the land is arable, and 52 percent is used as meadow and pasture, especially for cattle. Argentina has the highest per capita number of cattle, at 50,869 cattle per 1,000 people. The heavy reliance on the cattle industry has led to the desertification of some parts of the country, and has contributed to very high methane emissions.
It has been calculated that about 44 percent of the country's carbon dioxide emissions come from the cattle industry or other parts of the agricultural sector, with 70 percent of those from methane from the 55 million cattle. As a result, many of the attempts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of Argentina have centered on the cattle industry, with cows from Argentina producing larger emissions than their counterparts in Brazil and Uruguay. The first attempts have focused on trying to change the diet of the cattle on the basis that the simpler the diet, and the less problems in digesting the food, the lower the level of greenhouse gas emissions; this also improves in the reproductive cycle of the animals.
When implemented, these measures are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Argentina by 10-20 percent. The country is also one of the largest producers of soybeans, the production of which also contributes to the output of greenhouse gases. This is largely because the soybean, when growing, emits nitrous oxide, which is about 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide. The deforestation of some areas to increase soybean production has made the problem worse.
Methane from waste dumps around Argentina has also been identified as a problem, and these are estimated to contribute about 5 percent of Argentina's total greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses are trying to extract the methane for use, rather than simply burning off the gases. A substantial part of the population has a high standard of living, using significant amounts of electricity, and contributing to a high private automobile usage. The Argentine press regularly criticizes the wastage of natural gas, the continued reliance on fossil fuels, especially extensive use of gaseous fuels, and the minimal use of solar technology. Some 51.8 percent of the electricity generated in Argentina comes from fossil fuels, with 40.6 percent from hydroelectric power, 7.2 percent from nuclear power, and the remainder from other sources. Hydroelectricity comes from a number of dams located around the country.
While contributing to greenhouse gases, Argentina has also faced many problems from global warming. Since the heavy rains in Buenos Aires in May 2000, when more than four times the average monthly rainfall fell in less than a week, there have been very high rainfall figures, whereas, by contrast, rising temperatures have resulted in severe water shortages in La Pampa province, despite some flooding around the Argentine-Uruguayan border from August to October 2001. The most noticeable effects of global warming have been in southern Argentina. It has been estimated that the glaciers in Patagonia have receded, on average, by as much as a mile since the late 1990s, and the Upsala glacier, located in the Los Glaciares National Park, once the biggest in South America, is now losing 656 ft. (200 m.) per year. The warmer temperatures have also seen a large increase in plant life in the Argentine islands in the Antarctic region, such as Antarctic pearlwort and hairgrass.
The Argentine government of Carlos Menem took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, and in October 1997, D.A. Blasco from Argentina addressed the Fifth World Bank Conference on Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development in Washington, D.C. In November 1998, President Menem made Argentina the first developing country to adopt binding targets for reducing emissions from greenhouse gases, and was one of the first countries to set exact targets.
This followed meetings held at Buenos Aires earlier that month in a follow-up meeting to that held in Kyoto. The ministry of social development and the environment in Argentina has managed to implement a number of policies to combat climate change, and the government of President Nestor Kirchner has argued that work on climate change should include recognition of the environmental debt that has been generated by forcing new rules on developing countries.
SEE ALSO: Agriculture; Floods; Glaciers, Retreating; Methane Cycle.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Paula Alvarado, "Global Warming in Argentina," Tree Hugger, www.treehugger.com (cited September 2007); J.P. Barrett, "Argentina and Kazakhstan Set Example for Lowering Global Emissions," Economic Policy Institute, www.epinet.org (cited September 2007); P.J. Ber-eciartua, "Vulnerability to Global Environmental Changes in Argentina: Opportunities for Upgrading Regional Water Resources Management Strategies," Water Science and
Technology (v.51, part 5, 2005); W.K. Stevens, "Argentina Takes a Lead in Setting Goals on Greenhouse Gases," New York Times (November 12, 1998); Francisco Szekely, ed., Energy Alternatives in Latin America (Tycooly International Publishing, 1983); "Y por casa como andamos?" Clarin (February 25, 2007).
JUSTIN CORFIELD Geelong Grammar School, Australia
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