Sunday, December 16, 2007

Climate change will see the “Africanisation” of Spain: Assessment report

Olive Press (Spain): Incessant heat waves, the extinction of vegetal and animal species and the spread of desert from Almería to cover southern Spain in its entirety. Those are the findings of a report recently presented to the country’s prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to help the government decide how to deal with climate change. The study, which was compiled by a team of 17 scientists from Spain, paints a dire picture of the country at the end of this century.

It concludes that the country’s climate will become more like that of central Africa as tropical disease claims the lives of thousands and swathes of its Mediterranean beaches, which today bring millions of tourists to the country, are lost to rising sea levels. “Although these findings are not exhaustive, it helps us understand the importance of dealing with Climate Change on a national level,” the report states….

Extinction of species: With as much as 97 per cent of the country’s indigenous reptile and amphibian life facing extinction, Spain could see the loss of some of its most emblematic species such as the Moorish gecko and Lataste’s viper. Alarmingly, the scientists who compiled the report claim 50 per cent of Spain’s vegetation could also be lost to climate change. “Terrestrial ecosystems will be subjected to a change in conditions not seen in millennia,” argues the report.

Water shortage: Urban growth and an increased demand from agriculture will place a heavy burden on Spain’s water supplies – especially in the southern half of Spain. Rivers and lakes will eventually dry up as the 21st century progresses. The report suggests money should be invested in the development of new water saving technologies.

Loss of beaches: By 2050, the level of the sea will have risen by an average of 15 centimetres, according to the report. This will set off a domino effect that will see the country’s economy severely affected as the tourist industry collapses; up to 15 metres of beach will be lost in the Canary Islands, Huelva and Cádiz as a predicted 70 metres will be lost from the Costa Brava and the Balearic Islands. Instances of flooding will increase along the Mediterranean coastline.

Desertification: Land throughout the south of Spain will lose its fertility as a direct result of the activity of Man. Soil erosion will give rise to an increase in forest fires as increasing salt levels in the land will aid the loss of plant life.

Disease and death: A rise in temperature will bring subtropical diseases unknown until now in Spain, the study claims. Atmospheric pollution will also claim many lives as instances of respiratory disease increase. Heat waves like that of 2003, which claimed 6,500 lives around Europe, will become a common occurrence. The report claims: “That was a freak event, but it could well be a sign of what is in store.”

Meanwhile, the publication of the study coincides with predictions that Spain will not meet its Kyoto targets. Along with both Italy and Denmark, the country is struggling to lower its 1990 base level of 288 million tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions. Spain has to reduce its CO2 output in the 2008-2012 period by 15 million tonnes as set out by the Kyoto Protocol. However there is a 14 per cent excess, according to European Union figures.

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