Climate Change Issue in Spain: Temperature Incensement

Nowadays mankind is facing huge global ecological problems, most of which are the results of people’s activity. One of such problems is climate change occurring worldwide. A variety of countries suffer from damages caused by climate change, and the main focus of this research paper is to examine these issues in Spain. Over the past 100 years, average global temperature in Europe increased by 1.2C, the 1990s were the warmest decade in the last 150 years. It has been predicted that the average temperature in this region will increase by 1.4-5.8C during 1990-2100. The largest increase is expected in Eastern and Southern Europe. In such a context, Spain is a relevant example of a country that faces and copes with major climate changes. It also has to be mentioned that since 1980 half of the glaciers in Spain have melted. This paper describes major climate changes in Spain, specifies the country’s major climate change – the one in temperature, as well as defines and explains environmental, social, and economic aspects of this issue. 

Spain is a country located in southwestern Europe and, partly, in Africa. Spain is one of the warmest countries in Southern Europe. The average number of sunny days equals 260 to 285. The average annual temperature on the Mediterranean coast is 20C. Usually, in winter, the temperature decreases below 0C only in the central and northern parts of the country. In summer, the temperature rises up to 40C and higher (from the central part to the southern coast). On the northern coast, the temperature is not so high – only about 25C.

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The climate of Spain is considered one of its most important natural resources. The country occupies the first place in Europe based on  the number of sunny days per year. Spain is almost completely located in the subtropical climate zone and its natural conditions are similar to other Mediterranean countries, but differ in respect of being close to the Iberian Peninsula. The proximity to Africa and the influence of steep terrain and extensive adjacent waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea play crucial role in the country’s climate formation.

Spain will reach the temperature of North Africa by 2050 if climate continues changing at the current rate. The report, prepared by Cambio Climático and measuring climate changes since 1950 with a forecast up to 2050, warns that some of the most popular and successful agricultural crops of Spain may be at risk if nothing is done to prevent change of the climate in the country. Andalusian olives, lemons and even famous Valencian vineyards of La Rioja may be at risk if the temperature increases similar to Morocco’s. In Europe, the rate of warming is higher than on other continents, and the hottest decade for European countries was in the years 2002-2011.

In Spain, the situation is more serious than in other countries as its temperature has risen by an average of 0.5C, whereas in other countries – 0.2C per decade since the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to the decline in rainfall since 1950, it becomes clear that Spain has become much warmer and drier.

“The new report shows that climate change is the reality of Spain”, says Jonathan Gomez Cantero, who worked on the report. ‘People need to be informed and know the reality of this phenomenon. If the temperature in Southern Europe increases only by two degrees, it will be equal to the temperature in North Africa’.

Heat waves are periods of abnormally high temperatures causing a range of negative consequences from destruction of crops to increased mortality. In Spain, heat waves are becoming more and more common. One of them, in July 2009, severely damaged the planting pepper plantation in Miguel Campa. In the years 1961-1990,  heat waves lasted for an average of two days a year, while in the years 2021-2050, according to experts, the period will become 13 days long. According to the same forecasts, the number of days with temperatures above 40.6C (the value of possible drastic violation of thermoregulation when vital human organs cannot function normally) in the Mediterranean countries will increase to 16 a year by 2070.

Climate change in Spain has a negative impact on the economy, because the main part of the state budget’s profit consists of winemaking. The consequences of rising temperatures include overmaturity of grapes, drying, increase in acidity and vulnerability to pests and diseases. High levels of carbon dioxide accelerate the process of photosynthesis, which leads to a change in the process of rising and maturation of wine grapes. In addition, due to the high temperatures, the harvesting season might shift from early October to September. These changes may adversely affect the taste and vitality of grapes. More hot weather will cause a reduction in the acidity of grapes and, accordingly, a significant change in the taste of wine.

Spain’s tourism industry could be at risk as well. The reason of this is behind climate change that causes increasingly hot and dry summers. This could potentially lead to higher rates of drought, forest fires and loss of some wild animals. In addition, the temperature which is too hot makes visiting the Mediterranean countries at the height of season less comfortable. These factors have the potential to make Spain less attractive to tourists, while the countries located to the north, with more moderate summers, can get, as a result, growth in tourist revenues. It is estimated that the Southern Mediterranean countries may lose tourism revenues amounting to 0.45% of GDP annually. For Spain, this may mean the loss of up to €5.6 billion annually.

The Spanish government approved a list of measures to combat climate change. The list consists of eighty points and is particularly aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The Spanish are going to cut the 2012 emissions of greenhouse gases by 37% to meet the Kyoto Protocol requirements. The government decided to encourage purchase of vehicles that are less polluting. At the same time, the ‘dirty’ vehicles purchase tax was significantly increased. The owners of vehicles in which the amount of carbon dioxide is less than 120 grams per kilometer will not pay the tax, while the drivers whose number is 120-160 grams will have to pay 4.75% of the vehicle price, 160-200 grams – 9.75%. About 56% of cars in Spain are classified as highly pollutant. The government decided to spend 2.5 billion Euros on the development of renewable energy sources, the ban on weekend pipes in 2012 and gradual transition to cars on biofuels.

Thus, the climate change issue in Spain is very serious. It affects not only people’s lives, but the country’s economy as well. If Spanish government does not implement measures against the climate change issues, the future of the country will be sorrowful. But, as long as the government is aware of this problem and actively fights climate change by introduction of sets of measures, the situation can be successfully changed.

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