Global change threatens the natural systems, health and safety of people in the Mediterranean.

Al Mediterrani, el nivell del mar ha augmentat a 6 centímetres en les últimes dues dècades i les seves aigües s'han anat acidificant.
Al Mediterrani, el nivell del mar ha augmentat a 6 centímetres en les últimes dues dècades i les seves aigües s'han anat acidificant.

Josep Peñuelas is one of the authors of the first-ever synthesis of multiple environmental changes and risks affecting the livelihoods of people in the entire Mediterranean region published in Nature Climate Change. The paper reviews the various environmental changes and the risks posed by these changes in the five major interconnected domains, namely water resources, ecosystems, food safety and security, health, and human security.

Al Mediterrani, el nivell del mar ha augmentat a 6 centímetres en les últimes dues dècades i les seves aigües s'han anat acidificant.
Al Mediterrani, el nivell del mar ha augmentat  6 centímetres en les últimes dues dècades i les seves aigües s’han anat acidificant.

Climate change is aggravating environmental problems in the Mediterranean basin, caused by changes in the use of lands, redistribution of population, pollution and declining of biodiversity. Floods and droughts, lack of water, ecosystem degrading, threatened food safety, health and security problems, can increase during the upcoming decades. Josep Peñuelas (CREAF – CSIC) has participated, with colleagues from nine countries, in a new review article published in Nature Climate Change, which gathers data on the impacts of climate change and environmental changes in the Mediterranean basin. This study is the starting point for a new specific report on the impact of climate change in this basin, to be worked on by the network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change (MedECC), to be presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The study, led by Wolfgang Cramer (CNRS, IMBE, Aix-en-Provence, France) and which counts on the participation of researchers from the University of Barcelona and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), shows that the average temperatures per year in the Mediterranean basin are now 1.4ºC higher than the pre-industrial levels and 0.4ºC higher than the global scale. Furthermore, the study states that, during the last twenty years, the level of the Mediterranean sea has raised by 6 cm, and it will continue doing so at a high speed, which will cause coast floods that will affect the population, since more than half of this region’s population is expected to live in coastal cities by 2050.

Although global warming will be limited at 2ºC, it is probable for precipitations to be reduced by 10 and 30 % in some regions, and researchers predict a rise of several days in a row without rain. This means there will be a lack of water and more risks in agricultural productivity, especially in southern areas. Human health will be also affected by climate change and pollution, which will cause infectious, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. In politically unstable countries, the environmental change is more and more relevant regarding social and economic risks due hunger, migrations, and conflicts that could expand around the area.


Due to climate change alone, the irrigation demands in the region are projected to increase between 4 and 18% by the end of the century. Population growth may escalate these numbers furthers to 22-74%. Tourism development, new industries, and urban sprawl may increase water pollution, too.


The acidification of seawater, increasing heatwaves in combination with drought and land-use change also affect the natural ecosystems, posing risks in biodiversity and fisheries.

Food production from agriculture and fisheries across the Mediterranean region is also changing due to the social, economic and environmental changes. Combined with the ongoing switch to more animal-based food production, southern countries are at risk to increase their dependence on trade.


Public health is impacted by multiple trends of change, through heat waves, pollution (higher risk of cardiovascular or respiratory diseases), and the increased spread of disease vectors (West Nile virus, Dengue, Chikungunya). In politically unstable countries, environmental change is an increasingly relevant factor for socio-economic risks, due to famines, migration and conflict. Human security will also be threatened due to extreme weather, such as a rise in sea level posing a higher risk of storm surges for people living in coastal areas in the region.

Mediterranean Experts on Environmental and Climate Change (MedECC)

Assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) provide useful knowledge, but they haven’t allowed getting an integrated view on the Mediterranean basin. This study shows the first step the Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change (MedECC) will work on, a group which includes four hundred scientific experts, with the support of governmental agencies, the Union for the Mediterranean and other partners. The main aim of MEDECC is to create an integrated review on the risks in the Mediterranean area to present it so that it can be debated on.

Article de referència:
Cramer W, Guiot J, Fader M, Garrabou J, Gattuso J-P, Iglesias A, Lange MA, Lionello P, Llasat MC, Paz S, Peñuelas J, Snoussi M, Toreti A, Tsimplis MN, Xoplaki E. Climate change and interconnected risks to sustainable development in the MediterraneanNature Climate Change


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