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Worrying effects of accelerating climate change on the Mediterranean Basin

Average temperatures in the Mediterranean region have already risen 0.4°C more than the global average
Oct 22 2018

The Mediterranean Basin is feeling the effects of climate change more than ever.

This comes on top of the negative environmental pressures exerted by land-use change (urbanisation, agricultural intensification), pollution and declining biodiversity.

The JRC is part of a network of scientists that has contributed to a synthesis, published in Nature Climate Change today, that addresses current and future risks associated with these changes.

New study

This is the first ever study to synthesise multiple changes in the environment that impact the livelihoods of people in the entire Mediterranean Basin.

Average temperatures in the Mediterranean region have already risen by 1.4°C since the pre-industrial era, 0.4°C more than the global average. During the past two decades, sea level has risen by 6 cm and sea water acidity has significantly increased.

Historic warming of the atmosphere globally (green) and in the Mediterranean Basin (blue).

©Data from http://berkeleyearth.org/

Water shortages

Even if future global warming is limited to 2°C, as prescribed by the Paris Agreement, summer rainfall is at risk of being reduced by 10 to 30% in some regions, thereby worsening existing water shortages and causing loss in agricultural productivity, particularly in southern countries.

Under such circumstances, irrigation would have to be increased by 4-22%. This demand will be in competition with other uses (drinking water, tourism, industry).

Given the ongoing switch to more animal-based food production, southern countries are at risk of becoming more dependent on trade. Fisheries are also at risk, due to climate change, acidification and overfishing.

Rising sea level

The melting of ice in Antarctica, Greenland and many mountain areas accelerates sea level rise more than recently estimated. This directly affects the Mediterranean, where the large population living very close to the coast would be affected by storm surges. Flooding by salt water will negatively impact agricultural soils in many areas, such as the Nile Delta.

Public health

Public health is impacted by a variety of environmental impacts, such as heatwaves, pollution (cardio-vascular or respiratory diseases), and the increased spread of carriers of disease (West Nile virus, Dengue, Chikungunya). In politically unstable countries, environmental change brings significant socio-economic risks, due to famines, migration and conflict.

Call for a pan-Mediterranean risk assessment

To facilitate decision-making to help address these risks, the authors call for a pan-Mediterranean risk assessment that gives an integrated view of the Mediterranean Basin, one that gives a scientific synthesis of current knowledge from all relevant disciplines, sectors and subregions.

Network of experts

The MedECC (Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change) network has been established to meet this call. With 400 voluntary and independent scientific experts supported by government agencies and other partners, MedECC aims to produce a full synthesis of risks and present it to decision-makers for debate and approval.  

Further information