Effects of Climate Change in Puerto Rico

Changes to the climate have been especially harsh on Puerto Rico, from tropical storms to hurricanes, sea level rise, coastal flooding, beach erosion, and extreme heat waves. According to Robert Kopp, Ph.D., 2023 was the planet’s hottest year to date. Climate Central says that 98% of the summer season had heat at least 2x to 5x more likely due to climate change in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy revealed that temperatures in Puerto Rico have increased as much as a few degrees over the past seventy years. Average temperatures have increased throughout the island, especially in fall and summer, which were already the hottest months. Puerto Rico is experiencing shorter winters and longer summers, indicating the island is experiencing global warming. Maximum temperature has increased through every season in all urban areas, posing health risks to residents and increasing demands on energy for cooling. 

Dr. Mark Jury of The University of Puerto Rico says,”sea and air temperatures and sea levels are all rising due to locally weaker winds and currents, lower salinity and air pressure, in addition to global influences in Puerto Rico.”

Extreme heat, stronger and more frequent hurricanes, and increased flooding are just some of how the climate crisis is impacting the lives of Puerto Ricans.

Climate change is also reshaping the island’s ecosystems, leading to shifts in biodiversity and habitats. Rising sea levels and warmer ocean temperatures affect marine life, including coral reefs and fish populations. Changes in rainfall patterns and increasing extreme weather events pose significant challenges to crop yields and food security. 

Ecological shifts have far-reaching consequences for the environment and members of the community. 

Vulnerability to extreme weather events has thrust the island into the spotlight. Hurricane Maria in 2017 serves as a haunting reminder of the destructive capability of these storms. 

Puerto Rico’s susceptibility to extreme weather events indicates the urgent need for efforts to address and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Dr. Jury says that centralized, reliable power distribution can avoid local generator use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Resilient infrastructure is necessary, such as forming seawalls and flood barriers to protect coastal areas and renewable energy sources are needed to protect lives and property in Puerto Rico.