Spain the next Sahara if global warming goes on
29 November 2007, Madrid - By the end of this century, Spanish summers will come as waves of scorching heat, leaving southern regions as parched as the Sahara and bathing northern areas in a climate more akin to the present-day Mediterranean.
29 November 2007
Madrid - By the end of this century, Spanish summers will come as waves of scorching heat, leaving southern regions as parched as the Sahara and bathing northern areas in a climate more akin to the present-day Mediterranean.
Fresh, clean drinking water will become increasingly scarce, rising sea levels will shrink beaches by dozens of meters and higher levels of atmospheric contamination will spawn new diseases.
That almost apocalyptic picture is the worst-case scenario envisioned by scientists if Spain and other countries around the world do not act now to combat climate change. If nothing is done, North Africa's current hot, arid climate will move north into Spain, expanding the desert and bringing with it sub-tropical illnesses. Of all the countries in Europe, Spain is likely to suffer the most.
Based on the predictions of the government's 17-member panel on climate change, who presented their first report to Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero on Tuesday, Spain faces multiple threats from a hotter, dryer climate. Spain is already the most arid country in Europe, with 31.5 percent of its territory affected by desertification. Global warming will accelerate that trend, particularly in southern regions of the country.
As a result, up to half of Spanish endemic plant life could be wiped out, while animal species unable to move to cooler climates would be decimated. The report suggests that in the case of amphibians and reptiles up to 97 percent of species will be affected. "Terrestrial ecosystems will face changes unlike any experienced for millennia," the scientists warn.
For animals and humans alike, one of the greatest threats from global warming is the loss of water resources, with average rainfall likely to decrease, while droughts and heat waves, like the one that swept across Europe in 2003, become more common.
"It was an exceptional event, outside of what can be considered the normal climatic pattern. However, the 6,500 deaths it caused [...] could be an example of things to come," the report warns.
Additional health risks will arise in the form of new respiratory illnesses caused by more pollutants and pathogens lingering in the air, particularly in cities, while the warmer climate overall could make Spain a breeding ground for subtropical diseases.
Meanwhile, coastal areas will face increased risk of flooding as predicted 20- to 35-centimeter increases in sea levels will shrink beaches by 15 to 70 meters, depending on the region.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ ÁLVARO DE CÓZAR 2007]
Subject: Spanish news