The Risks Threatening the Mediterranean and European Climate

 The Risks Threatening the Mediterranean and European Climate

Piero Lionello and Gustavo Naumann are two climate experts and members of the IPCC Working Group II, which published a new report on climate on 28 February. The two scientists have issued a document explaining the risks of climate change in Europe and in the Mediterranean region.

By Marianna Malpaga | YPA Italy

When it comes to Europe, the main risks related to climate change are four: heat waves, alteration of agricultural rhythms, scarcity of water resources, intense floodings. This is the core of a document based on the information in the IPPC Working Group II’s latest report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. The two experts who wrote it are Piero Lionello (University of Salento and Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change) and Gustavo Naumann (Cima Foundation), both members of the IPCC Working Group II.

They explained that the heat waves on populations and ecosystems could double or even triple the number of deaths and of people at risk because of heat-generated stress. This situation will occur if the average temperature grows of 3°C and it will interest especially Southern Europe. The rising of the global temperature of 2°C or more will reduce habitats in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and likely modify their composition.

In the coming years, the scientists state, agricultural productions and water resources will be particularly at risk because of extreme weather events. In Southern Europe, even today the need of water exceeds its availability. If the global warming hits the +3°C, Central and Western Europe will have to deal with the same problem. Violent rainfalls and the rising see level will cause damage to people and infrastructures because of sea, river and rain floodings.

The Mediterranean is a hotspot of climate change. The Lionello-Naumann document describes it as a region where the temperature has risen and will continue to do so at a quicker pace than in the rest of the world. This is true for both sea and land and refers to average temperatures and heat waves’ ones.

Overall, the region will become more arid because of less rainfalls and more evapotranspiration. However, extreme rainfalls will grow in number in some areas. The sea level will rise as well, a trend which will become “irreversible and progressing on a secular scale”. During the XX century, in fact, it has risen of 1.4mm per year and accelerated toward the end of the same century.

Lionello writes that the Mediterranean sea level is expected to keep rising at the same speed of the waters in the rest of the world, reaching values potentially close to one meter in 2100 if emissions are high. The rising will continue even if greenhouse gasses concentrations are stabilised. The consequences of this situation are clearly visible on the Mediterranean coastline: the narrow sandy beaches, which have an ecological and touristic importance, could disappear.

The impacts will grow if the global warming is not contained within manageable limits: the more the global temperature rises, the higher the risks for the Mediterranean region.

Southern Europe is also highly threatened by water scarcity and drought. If the global temperature rises of 1.5°C, 18% of its population will be exposed to the consequences of water insecurity. If the increase is +2°C, 54% of the population will be affected.

Drought affects agriculture, energy production, factories, the water systems of houses and ecosystems. Naumann clarifies that drought is of the agents of desertification and land deterioration. It is among the causes of the fragility of ecosystems and of social instability, specifically for rural communities. According to scientists, droughts should become more common not only in Southern Europe but also in Africa, Australia, Southern and Western US, Central America, the Caribbean, South America and North-western China. On the contrary, they will diminish in number in Northern Europe, the South-eastern part of South America, Central Africa, Canada, the Russian Federation and South-eastern Asia.

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