Whether they like it or not, 500 million people from three continents are united by the same problem: climate change.
The Mediterranean basin is one of the hot spots of this global crisis, and in some ways it is being “hit harder than other parts of the world,” according to Wolfgang Cramer, scientific director at the French-based Mediterranean Institute of Biodiversity and Ecology (IMBE).
Never before had there been such as complete synthesis as this
Wolfgang Cramer, project coordinator
A new report, whose main conclusions are being presented on Thursday in Barcelona, shows that the temperature increase in the Mediterranean region has already reached 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, which means that the warming effect in this area is 20% faster than the global average.
And what’s coming next, if additional measures to reduce greenhouse gases are not taken, is much worse: by 2040 the temperature increase will be 2.2ºC, and possibly as much as 3.8ºC in some parts of the basin by 2100. In just two decades, 250 million people will suffer from water scarcity due to the droughts.
The report is being presented at a meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean, an international organization whose members include EU states as well as countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean.
Since 2015, a group of over 80 scientists working under Cramer’s guidance has been working on a study that is being touted as “the first-ever comprehensive scientific report on the impact of climate and environmental change in the Mediterranean region.”
“Never before had there been such as complete synthesis as this,” says Cramer about a document that is filled with alarming information. The project coordinator notes that many people are in a vulnerable situation because “they live very close to the sea and also because they are poor and have few options for protecting themselves or moving away.” The report warns that in future there will be longer and more intense heatwaves, as well as more frequent periods of drought.
Despite the pessimistic outlook (see bottom box for report highlights), Cramer underscores that the goal of the study is to “provide balanced information about the risks for the entire Mediterranean basin” to politicians and their advisors. The scientist also makes a call for action: “The North needs to help the South to adapt, to guarantee stability for the economies of southern countries. Every ton of CO2 that is reduced makes a difference.”
Grammenos Mastrojeni, the deputy secretary general for Energy and Climate Action at the Union for the Mediterranean, believes that this report can be useful to government leaders when they need to make policy decisions.
“We are not used to incorporating climate and nature into our policies and our planning. But if we don’t, we will be the victims of a very strong dynamic that will change the foundations of the interests on which we have built the balance of the Mediterranean,” he says in a telephone conversation.
“If we don’t plan for this, it could become a very important destabilization factor. But if we manage to incorporate it into our policies, it could transform into an opportunity to improve our cooperation and achieve progress that is fair, lasting and equitable in the entire region,” he adds.
Mastrojeni says that poor populations, those who are forced to move when climate conditions such as drought imperil their livelihood, are more at risk of falling prey to human smugglers or terrorist groups. “This is not happening in the [Mediterranean] region yet, but it is in the area around Lake Chad, where [terrorist organization] Boko Haram is gaining many followers due to the collapse of the ecosystem, which provides no more living opportunities.
This expert believes that political leaders are aware of the challenge. “Governments are at a much more advanced stage than the public thinks, but the problem is that there are no magic solutions, yet everything is happening at a tremendous speed and we need to adapt everything. Science gives us an idea of what could happen, but the question is how to incorporate this data into political action and democratic decision-making.”
English version by Susana Urra.