Case Study: Cahuita, Costa Rica

Loss and damage caused by climate change is one of the main challenges for the enjoyment of human rights and the well-being of communities in the Global South.

Community Perspectives: Loss and Damage in Cahuita, Costa Rica. A case study carried out within the Climate (In) Justice in Latin America project executed by La Ruta del Clima with the support of Brot fur die Welt.

Case Study

The case study of Community Perspectives on Loss and Damage in Cahuita, coastal area of the South Caribbean in Costa Rica, allows knowing from a community perspective, the climatic impacts and their implications in the territory, as well as historical, economic and socio-environmental elements that increase the vulnerability of the community to the impacts of climate change.


The manifestation of phenomena such as the increase in temperature was demonstrated, a hot and drier thermal sensation is perceived, this has a direct relationship with the decrease in forest cover and the variability of the dry and rainy seasons, since rainfall decreased. In the historically rainiest months from November to February, the rise in sea level and coastal erosion, the inhabitants show concern since it generates damage to infrastructure, forces the mobilization of those who live on the shore of the beach, also if it is lost beach decreases the tourist attraction and turtle nesting is affected, as has happened in the territory of the Cahuita and Manzanillo National Parks.

Human rights violations as a result of climate change are a reality. The results of this study provide elements to contextualize these injuries, one of the basic needs of life that has most affected the community of Cahuita as a result of hydrometeorological impacts is access and availability of drinking water; as shown in the graph below, it is one of the greatest losses and damages that the people surveyed have suffered with respect to climate-related events. The loss of crops and marine species relevant to fishing, damage to the infrastructure of their homes and educational institutions, all of which are directly linked to fundamental human rights for a dignified life, are also highlighted.

The evidence collected through this research creates a basis for deepening actions of empowerment and dialogue with community actors in Cahuita regarding the implications of climate impacts. It is also a step to facilitate the claim with more precise and identifiable grounds, the obligation of public authorities regarding the monitoring, registration and reporting of loss and damage, in all its dimensions. As well as to initiate the claim for justice and reparation that is owed to communities like Cahuita, by the international community and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change regarding loss and damage.

Field Work

The field work in which dialogues were carried out with key people in the area and surveys on the perception of changes and effects, it was possible to observe relationships between the impacts projected by the climate scenarios and the experiences that have already been experienced in the South Caribbean during the last decade.

Lack of Data

Through field work and sustained dialogues, it was possible to observe relationships between the impacts projected by the climate scenarios and the experiences that have already been experienced in the South Caribbean. The impact that the manifestation of phenomena such as the increase in sea temperature, the rise in sea level and coastal erosion, as well as the loss of marine-coastal biodiversity, was demonstrated. In addition, indications were found that show that the manifestations of climate impacts, whether they are EMEs or slow-onset events, have managed to lead local organizations and institutions to exceed their response capacities.

In Costa Rica, data is available regarding the losses and damages generated by events of great magnitude for which an official decree declaring an emergency has been issued and these are data on the economic cost incurred. However, these data are not necessarily related to climate change nor do they reflect the dimensions that we mention in the report.

Throughout the Central American region, there is a dearth of information, especially on non-economic loss and damage and on slow-onset events. Given this panorama, the information available based on the records of several Costa Rican public institutions is used in the report.