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Vulnerable to Climate Change – Murcia, Spain

From heatwaves to hurricanes, floods to famine: seven climate change hotspots  Global warming will not affect everyone equally. Here we look at seven key regions to see how each is tackling the consequences of climate change, Guardian, John Vidal, 23 June 17

“………Murcia, Spain

For Wolfgang Cramer, scientific director of the Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology in Aix-en-Provence, France, climate change impacts are already visible not only in the vicinity of Murcia, but across much of the Mediterranean basin. If pledges to cut emissions are not met, catastrophe looms.

He and his colleague Joel Guiot, a paleoclimatologist, last year studied pollen locked in layers of sediment over the past 10,000 years and compared them with projections about climate and vegetation from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If warming is allowed to rise to 2C, the scientists concluded, much of southern Spain and the Mediterranean basin could become desert. Their paper, published in Science, was shocking because it showed that even a small temperature increase could be enough to create ecological havoc in a very heavily populated region with relatively wealthy countries.

They warned that North African countries would see increased temperatures and drought that would drive the southern deserts further north; that deserts would expand in the Middle East, pushing temperate forests higher into the mountains; and that ecosystems not seen in the Mediterranean basin in more than 10,000 years could develop.

“We are more certain of the drying trend in the region than almost anywhere else on the planet. Temperatures have risen 1C globally but 1.4C in the Mediterranean region. The trend is for it to become ever warmer,” says Cramer.

Increasing temperature, he says, drives droughts. “More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means rising temperatures, less precipitation and then more drying that leads to desertification.”

Meanwhile, water stress, heat waves and an extended drought linked to climate change in the eastern Mediterranean has been widely implicated in the long Syrian war and an underlying driver of conflict in Middle East and North African countries.

The World Resources Institute concurred in 2015 that the Mediterranean basin was a climate hotspot when it placed 14 of the world’s 33 most water-stressed countries in 2040 in the Middle East and North Africa region. “Drought and water shortages in Syria likely contributed to the unrest that stoked the country’s 2011 civil war. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people, primarily farmers and herders, to lose their livelihoods and leave their land, move to urban areas, and magnify Syria’s general destabilisation,” it said.

The fast-growing, heavily populated region is climatically vulnerable, it concluded. The food supplies and the social balance of places like Palestine, Israel, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan are all highly sensitive to even a small change in water supplies. As climate change intensifies, communities face grave threats from both droughts and floods.

The combined impact of many more people, higher temperatures and changing weather patterns on the region’s already scarce freshwater resources poses further potential for conflict. But optimists hope it could force compromise between competing states and water users. Rural areas already have no option but to switch to more efficient irrigation systems and drought tolerant crops, and urban areas are learning to conserve water…..

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/23/from-heatwaves-to-hurricanes-floods-to-famine-seven-climate-change-hotspots?CMP=share_btn_tw

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June 24, 2017 - Posted by | climate change, Spain

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