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The Mediterranean sea, a paradise lost split between north and south

A paradise lost, split in the incidence of risks between north and south. This is what emerges from the latest report of the MedECC (the network that brings together Mediterranean experts on climate and environmental changes), "Risks associated with climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean region". In our Mare Nostrum, the average temperature, compared to the pre-industrial era, has increased by 1.5 C. This is a figure which, if not contrasted by mitigation measures, could lead some regions to record increases up to 2.2 C in 2040, and 3.8 in 2100, with catastrophic consequences for a Mediterranean population, grown exponentially in the meantime.

 

Droughts and extreme events such as floods will be the visible consequences of a dramatic change in the rhythm and intensity of rainfall. The increase in temperatures also affects the vast masses of salt water. From 1945 to 2000 the Mediterranean grew steadily, with an escalation from 1970 that brings the annual increase to 1.1 mm. Projections made at the end of the century vary between 52 and 190 cm. A meter would be enough to condemn large sections of the inhabited coasts to be submerged. Seas and oceans host 30% of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities. The resulting acidification process already leads today to devastating impacts on marine biology. The 1.1 drop in pH value, which occurred during the industrial age, is a phenomenon never seen in the past 65 million years.

Seas, coasts and wetlands, countryside, forests, mountains and all the fauna that dwells them are destined to face an acceleration of the ongoing ecosystem disruption. Man, the only cause of generalized deterioration, is the first to face the consequences.

One of the most perceived phenomena by the Mediterranean populations will be the drastic reduction in the availability of fresh water. Glaciers, rivers, lakes and aquifers run the risk of being severely dried out. The number of people suffering from water shortages could go from 180 to 250 million in just twenty years. A multitude of small local stories already certify the difficulties that the agricultural sector, which consumes water resources with percentages ranging between 50 and 90% of the total, is going to suffer. Water, increasingly difficult to control in rational distribution systems, is also subject to numerous forms of pollution.

Little is the distance dividing environmental from social fever. Few remember how the Syrian war, still underway, was "prepared" in 2010 by a drought that wiped out agricultural production, bringing to its knees large layers of a population dangerously close to the red line of subsistence. The systematic nature of the phenomenon is so worrying that it pushed the United Nations to dedicate the annual report on water to the link that water maintains with climate change. In 2050, the study announces, as many as 5 billion people could have to face water poverty. Thirty years are left to ward off water-driven armed conflicts.

Another crucial element is that related to human health: "It is highly certain - the report underlines - that warming, as well as increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as floods, will contribute to the future transmission potential of vector- and water-borne diseases in the region". Tropical fever cases were recorded between 2010 and 2017 in Italy, France and Croatia. Floods, the MedECC report continues, can lead to enteric infections, allergies and asthma, an increase in mental illness and potential chemical intoxication. The disappearance of wetlands, the wild construction on the coasts and rivers could favor the natural transmission cycle of infections.

The highest duty will be paid by North Africa and the Middle East, which witnessed a population growth of 115 to 444 million from 1960 to 2017. The powerful increase in the demographic data is proportional to the degree of systemic fragility recorded in a context with strong environmental and cultural similarities. The environmental fracture dividing North and South

Mediterranean has been highlighted by a study conducted by coastal risk regional analysis carried out by the MEDSEA Foundation and subsequently absorbed by the MedECC report. The map summarizing the work of the Medsea researchers Alessio Satta and engineer Manuela Puddu, focused on the risks affecting coastal regions, shows, stretched out uniformly, the sequence of spots where danger is most important and imminent. The small red spheres chosen as indicator follow one another from the Moroccan to the Turkish coasts, in the immense social context that even political science has assimilated in the acronym MENA, Middle East and North Africa. The accurate MedECC study is aimed at the institutional actors. It is necessary, MedECC stresses, that they devote more attention and resources to the environmental decline of the Mediterranean, especially in the regions that more than others have shown historical fragilities. For them a future marked by unmitigated climate change could prove to be an environmental and social disaster.

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