GUEST EDITORIAL: “Spain’s Climate Challenge: A brief reality check.” Lino Naranjo, Meteo Galicia. August 9, 2010

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Published on August 05, 2010 with No Comments

For many people in the World, Spain brings to mind a sunny warm country with beaches along the Mediterranean Coast, with excellent food, friendly people and “Fiestas” with brave bulls. They might also think of Pamplona and the “running of the bulls” on narrow streets filled with young people. It is like talking about a piece of the tropics in the heart of Old Europe. However, the real Spain is much more than that. In fact it is vastly different from and broader than this touristic view.

If we travel across the country from, South to North and from West to East, we come to realize that Spain is like a kaleidoscope with different cultures, peoples, languages, and especially different landscapes and very different climates. From the Mediterranean, passing across the arid, hot land of its South, to the cold and rainy regions of its North, Spain could be considered a paradigm of diversity, far from stereotypes built up over the decades. However, there is one thing where no difference exists among regions; that is, a varying but high vulnerability to the consequences of long-term climate change (a.k.a. global warming).

One of the main pillars of the Spanish economy is its climate; in fact, climate-dependent activities like tourism, the wine industry, commercial livestock, are worldwide signatures of Spain. Climate in the Iberian Peninsula is becoming warmer and drier. Change rates are different among regions but warming trends are roughly the same. Regarding temperatures, The National Agency for Meteorology (AEMET) and others regional meteorological institutions such as Meteo Galicia in the Northwest have been identifying warming trends of between 0.4 to 0.8 ºC since the 1970s. That is about four times the long-term trend for the last 150 years. Precipitation seems to be a trend toward drier conditions in the past decades, mainly in the South and East, although in the North no significant change has been detected. Climatic projections from a standard GEI emission scenario indicate that these trends should continue in the next several decades.

In addition, there is an increasing worry that weather extremes appear to becoming more frequent; severe drought in the South, heavy winds and storms in the North, heat waves in the summer and snowstorms in the winter are becoming usual headlines in the newspapers.

All these changes, regardless of whether they are part of a long-term climate change or simply a multi-decade fluctuation of climate’s natural variability, present a strong challenge now and in the future of governance to the various levels of government in Spain, and more broadly on the Iberian Peninsula.

Aside from the impacts of climate variability, extremes and change, Spain is also undergoing a long- lasting economic crisis along with stormy societal conflicts that compromise its own surveillance as a Nation. Therefore, consequences of the additional stress generated from a changing climate could be devastating, regardless of the regions, landscapes, cultural differences or languages, or people into this kaleidoscope called Spain.

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