Costa Rica

Explore historical and projected climate data, climate data by sector, impacts, key vulnerabilities and what adaptation measures are being taken. Explore the overview for a general context of how climate change is affecting Costa Rica.


Costa Rica has included an adaptation to climate change component in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), with clear commitments for 2030. The NDC has identified adaptation actions and policies on climate smart agriculture, coastal management, water supply, poverty reduction, ecosystems and biodiversity, and disaster risk management. The country will continue with its Green and Inclusive Development policy through local actions in adaptation, such as the strengthening of conservation programs and expanding the environmental services payments program to include Ecosystem based Adaptation. Also, Costa Rica will continue to promote renewable energies, integral environment management through agro-forestry systems and watershed management, as well as municipal land use planning as tools to lower long term vulnerabilities of its population, enhance its food security and the resilience of its infrastructure. Climate Change Adaptation will have as one of its components the National Disaster Risk Management Policy, through capacity building for resilience and technology transfer. (NDC, 2016)

Adaptation Options for Key Sectors

  • Adjust sowing dates and crop zoning based on El Nino Southern Oscillation short and medium-term climate forecasts.
  • Employ sustainable agro-ecosystem land management practices, including the establishment of seedbanks for the long-term storage of agricultural seeds, improved livestock forage quality and agroforestry practices. 
  • Institute agroforestry and a payment for environmental services (PES) or credit system for soil, water, and biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration. This approach would provide a long-term sustainable source of fruit, nuts, and fodder to people and livestock while mitigating runoff and soil erosion. 
  • Identify the primary tropical wet forests that would be affected by climate change and adopt protection measures. 
  • Identify primary montane moist forests, which are especially threatened by deforestation, and adopt protection measures.
  • Create and enforce linkages between ecosystem managers and vulnerable sectors benefiting from ecosystem services.
  • Provide education and outreach policies to raise awareness about the relevance of ecosystem services and adaptation for sustainable development.
  • Engage key actors within the water resource systems in the Northwestern Central Valley to develop policy strategies and measures for adaptation at the local and national level.
  • Improve and strengthen the capacity of water resource systems through the evaluation of future and current vulnerability to watersheds.
  • Create water storage facilities, protect aquifers, and monitor water resources. 
  • Implement water rationing guidelines and irrigation projects along with projects aimed at increasing water efficiency and irrigation.
  • In Costa Rica, local communities have improved their housing design to better cope with floods by elevating them or using a reinforced concrete strip as a foundation. These houses are cost-efficient and last longer than regular structures. This housing type should be expanded through integration into municipal building codes.
  • Coastal communities source much of their livelihood from fishing and tourism and future sea level rise threatens the long term sustainability of these populations. Impact assessments to identify the most vulnerable coastal ecosystems and assess adaptation measures for coastal fisheries should be carried out. 

Gaps and Needs

  • The existing methodological approaches adopted in the country vary, as many are based on incremental scenarios, in particular for sea level rise. Very few are combined with sector impact models such as coastal river flooding data.
  • Assessments are needed in the cloud montane forests, as future trends reveal a climate severity index that would endanger the area’s great biodiversity. Studies need to be conducted to determine which species will be most affected and then adaption measures taken to ensure the least amount of harm to these vital ecosystems.
  • Assessments are needed in both urban and coastal areas, where poor planning and unstable human settlements have created vulnerability to flooding and landslides. An increase in storms affecting these areas will also endanger water and sanitation systems, which are already showing signs of stress.
  • The impact of drought events on the Pacific Slope has not yet been extensively studied. This is especially troubling since this region has high agricultural output. The country needs to take stock of all available climate information in this region to determine where systematic adaption measures should be taken.
  • Impact studies on watersheds and water treatment facilities should be expanded to ensure water quality and quantity in the Northwestern Central Valley.
  • Costa Rica has a nationwide network of meteorological monitoring stations and highly trained scientists working with leading research organizations around the world. There is increased need to improve the access and interpretation of available data.
  • Long-term and recent trends in sea level rise, flooding, and storm surges are not always available or analyzed properly, which is of particular concern as Costa Rica is highly exposed to all of these adverse weather events.
  • Climate change data for the country relies more on analyzing increases in minimum temperature and sometimes neglects the analysis of maximum temperature. This results in a generalized stated pattern for recent and future climate trends, which would mean that certain highly vulnerable areas might be overlooked.
  • Most Global Climate Models in Costa Rica use the downscaling technique for only one scenario, when in fact it would be more effective to associate conceptual models that downscale several scenarios (A1, A2, B2).