CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION
Ana María Pujante Mora
Scientists agree that the cause of the current climate change is the emission, as a result of human activity, of so-called “greenhouse gases”. These gases increase the capacity of the earth’s atmosphere to retain heat, leading to the phenomenon of global warming.
According to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC report), the Mediterranean region is a hotspot of climate risks due to the combination of multiple and strong climate hazards and its high vulnerability. The region’s main economic sectors (agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism) are highly vulnerable to climate risks, while socio-economic vulnerability is also considerable.
The following data from the Sixth IPCC report corroborate the threat posed by climate change in the Mediterranean area:
- The surface temperature of the Mediterranean region is now 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level, with a corresponding increase in extreme high temperature events.
- Rainfall trends are variable across the Mediterranean basin.
- Droughts have become more frequent and intense, especially in the northern Mediterranean.
- The sea surface has warmed between 0.29°C and 0.44°C per decade since the early 1980s with trends more marked in the eastern basin. Sea level has risen by 1.4±0.2 mm per year during the 20th century (2.8±0.1 mm per year during 1993-2018).
- Ocean acidity is increasing.
The risks associated with projected climate change are particularly high for people and ecosystems in the Mediterranean basin due to the unique combination of many factors, including:
- A large and growing urban population exposed to heat waves, with limited access to air conditioning.
- A large and growing number of people living in settlements affected by sea level rise.
- Major and growing water scarcity, already affecting 180 million people today.
- Growing demand for water for irrigated agriculture.
- High economic dependence on tourism, which is likely to be affected by increased heat, but also by the consequences of international emission reduction policies in aviation and cruises.
- Loss of ecosystems in oceans, wetlands, rivers and also in uplands, many of which are already at risk from unsustainable practices (e.g. overfishing, land use change).
Spain, due to its socio-economic characteristics, climate, geographical location, orography, its extensive coastline and the presence of two archipelagos, faces significant risks from climate change. Key sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, forestry, tourism and transport, are closely dependent on the climate, but also many other essential areas, such as human health, cities and biodiversity.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PNACC) defines 18 areas of work, for which specific objectives and lines of action have been defined for the period 2021-2030. Annex 1 of the PNACC contains a list of 225 measures for the 18 areas of work:
Climate change projections show a series of trends for Spain, including an increase in maximum and minimum temperatures, an increase in the duration of heat waves, a decrease in precipitation, a rise in the average sea level, among others. These changes also affect the hydrological cycle and projections show a decrease in average river flows, a decrease in the recharge of aquifers, an increase in droughts and torrential rains and floods.
The Climate Change Scenario Viewer is an easy-to-access platform for viewing, visualising and downloading the most up-to-date projections for the future climate of our country. The data available are mainly from two sources: point projections from the Spanish Meteorological Agency (AEMET) and grid projections from the international Euro-CORDEX initiative.
A very interesting micro-conference on climate change in the Mediterranean area can be viewed at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qdyl6VqBDS8