Medellin: Climate Risk and Response

Source: newsnation Source: newsnation

Medellin, Colombia, is the nation’s second largest city with a population of 2.4 million people
(Alcaldia de Medellin, 2014). It has a moderate and consistent climate of about 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round ( It has a decentralized and democratic government and 80 percent of Medellin’s population is mapped to the lower 3 (of 6) income levels (Encuesta de Calidad de Vida 2010).

Medellin has observed temperature increase over the past 50 years. Paramos, tropical alpine regions, located north of Medellin that regulate the city’s water flow have also seen temperature increases (Carrascal R D et al 2011). El Nino, a prolonged warming period that leads to drought and rainfall, is a contributor to climate-induced hazards in Medellin. The variability in rainfall has led to flooding and mudslides, leading to loss of life, livelihoods, and property.
The most vulnerable populations who have been affected by intense precipitation are the city’s poor who live on hillside slopes in informal settlements. Hydropower, as well as the Paramos, is also affected by the increase in temperature and variability in precipitation patterns.

Colombia and Medellin have demonstrated the ability to adapt to climate change with the establishment of institutions with programs. To prepare residents for flooding and mudslides, the city reformed its Disaster Early Warning System (SIATA) that monitors water resources in real time to preempt flooding ( Medellin is also working with the World Bank and with the Clinton Global Initiative project to provide homeowners in the hill slopes of the city with economic incentives, public awareness, technical information and access to financing to build a safe home (Clinton Global Initiative, 2014). Medellin’s city plan focusses on harmonizing the city with its natural environment by implementing a green belt around the city to prevent further expansion into the hill slopes of the city (Jaramillo, P J 2014). A National System for Prevention and Attention to Disasters (SIMPAD) has been established to help local governments monitor extreme events (Alcaldia de Medellin). Colombia has established a National Climate Change Adaptation Plan and a Financial Protection Strategy against climate related disasters in an effort to adapt the country to climate change (DNP).

Due to the natural disasters caused by flooding and mudslides, the city’s reliance on water as an ecosystem service for energy generation and the importance of the Paramos for Medellin there is need to integrate water resource management. Two policies have been proposed to address housing safety of the poorest: the preservation of Medellin’s watershed and the recognition of the Paramos as ecosystem services vital for the sustainability of hydropower.


This article is a product of Professor Shagun Mehrotra’s Climate Change and Cities class. Analysis is based on the Framework for City Climate Risk Assessment and Climate Change and Cities:First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network. Views expressed are entirely those of the authors. 



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