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Photos: Climate change threatens Cuba’s agriculture

Like the rest of the Caribbean, Cuba is experiencing longer droughts, warmer waters, more intense storms, and higher sea levels due to climate change. The rainy season, already problematic for farmers, has become longer and wetter.

Agriculture has long been a relatively bright spot in Cuba’s struggling economy. The socialist government has been relatively liberal with food producers, allowing them to pursue their economic interests more openly than others in Cuba.

Cuba has abundant sun, water, and soil, the basic ingredients needed to grow plants and feed animals. However, by changing the way nature works in the Caribbean, climate change is messing with the building blocks of productivity.

Cubans are leaving the island in the largest numbers in decades.

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US authorities encountered nearly 221,000 Cubans at the US-Mexico border in fiscal year 2022. It was a 471 percent increase from the previous year, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

As with everything in Cuba, the departure is being driven by a complex mix of internal politics and economics, and relations with the United States and other countries.

Part of what’s driving the flow is climate change, which cost Cuba $65.85 billion in gross domestic product between 1990 and 2014 alone, 9 percent of its total GDP, according to Dartmouth College.

“Caribbean economies, tourism, agriculture and fishing are at the forefront” of climate change, Donovan Campbell, a climate change expert at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, told The Associated Press.

A category 3 hurricane, Ian, swept through western Cuba in late September, killing three people, destroying 14,000 homes, damaging the power grid and destroying Cuba’s prized tobacco fields.

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Cuba was already in one of its worst economic, political and energy crises in decades, due to the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war with Ukraine, among other factors.

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Cuba had said it would get nearly a quarter of its power from renewable sources by 2030. But so far, the country gets just over 5 percent of its power from renewable sources and is still dependent on oil from allies Venezuela and Russia.

The US trade embargo “prevents us from accessing the resources that we might have and that would allow us to recover from these events as quickly as possible,” said Adianez Taboada, deputy minister of Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

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