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In photos: How climate change is affecting Spain

In photos: How climate change is affecting Spain

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Heatwaves, violent storms and drought are already taking their toll on the country, according to a report by Greenpeace

  • The property boom on the Spanish coast in the last 30 years has degraded the environmental conditions of the shoreline. Its ability to withstand flooding of coastal ecosystems has diminished by 10.6% since 2005. Mass building sprees have affected much of the coastline.
    1La Antilla, Lepe (Huelva) The property boom on the Spanish coast in the last 30 years has degraded the environmental conditions of the shoreline. Its ability to withstand flooding of coastal ecosystems has diminished by 10.6% since 2005. Mass building sprees have affected much of the coastline.
  • A fireman walks between burned trees in a forest fire in the municipality of Tabuyo del Monte in Spain’s Castilla y León region, on August 21, 2012. Around 500 soldiers were sent to the area to fight the fire, which authorities said consumed 80 square kilometers of forest. Climate change is the leading cause: with less rain, the soil is parched. Forest fires have become increasingly more intense and more difficult to put out. Drought and extreme temperatures change the forest mass, making it burn faster.
    2Tabuyo del Monte (León) A fireman walks between burned trees in a forest fire in the municipality of Tabuyo del Monte in Spain’s Castilla y León region, on August 21, 2012. Around 500 soldiers were sent to the area to fight the fire, which authorities said consumed 80 square kilometers of forest. Climate change is the leading cause: with less rain, the soil is parched. Forest fires have become increasingly more intense and more difficult to put out. Drought and extreme temperatures change the forest mass, making it burn faster.
  • Spain is very vulnerable to desertification. Some 20% of the country is considered desert and if measures are not taken quickly, this percentage is likely to rise. According to experts, 75% of land on the peninsula is susceptible to desertification. Greenpeace points out that this problem has also been caused by the over-exploitation of water sources, poor agricultural practices in elevated areas, overgrazing, intensive agriculture and needless urbanization.
    3Barrios de Luna reservoir (León) Spain is very vulnerable to desertification. Some 20% of the country is considered desert and if measures are not taken quickly, this percentage is likely to rise. According to experts, 75% of land on the peninsula is susceptible to desertification. Greenpeace points out that this problem has also been caused by the over-exploitation of water sources, poor agricultural practices in elevated areas, overgrazing, intensive agriculture and needless urbanization.
  • Coastal systems experience episodes of flooding and erosion due to rising sea levels and the changing force and direction of waves. This could leave many beaches in Cantabria and the Basque Country without sand. Cities on the Spanish coast such as A Coruña, Gijón and San Sebastián could be partially flooded. During the second half of the century, more than 200 hectares of coastal land in the Basque Country will be at risk of flooding.
    4Arenales beach, Liencres (Cantabria) Coastal systems experience episodes of flooding and erosion due to rising sea levels and the changing force and direction of waves. This could leave many beaches in Cantabria and the Basque Country without sand. Cities on the Spanish coast such as A Coruña, Gijón and San Sebastián could be partially flooded. During the second half of the century, more than 200 hectares of coastal land in the Basque Country will be at risk of flooding.
  • Rising global temperatures, associated with climate change, will melt the polar caps, increase water temperatures and cause sea levels to rise. This will have a huge impact on Spain, given its coastline stretches 8,000 kilometers. By the end of the century, sea levels along the Spanish coast are expected to rise between 10 and 86 centimeters. Many important beaches could be lost and large areas of coastal areas could be flooded – in particular the deltas along the Ebro and Llobregat rivers, the seaside spit Manga del Mar Menor in Murcia and the Doñana coast in Andalusia.
    5La Antilla, Lepe (Huelva) Rising global temperatures, associated with climate change, will melt the polar caps, increase water temperatures and cause sea levels to rise. This will have a huge impact on Spain, given its coastline stretches 8,000 kilometers. By the end of the century, sea levels along the Spanish coast are expected to rise between 10 and 86 centimeters. Many important beaches could be lost and large areas of coastal areas could be flooded – in particular the deltas along the Ebro and Llobregat rivers, the seaside spit Manga del Mar Menor in Murcia and the Doñana coast in Andalusia.
  • Climate change is destroying Spain’s last glaciers. In the Pyrenees, more than 80% of glaciers are gone and it is possible they will completely disappear by 2050. According to the Pyrenees Institute of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the glacier at Monte Perdido has shrunk by five meters in the last decades, although in some areas it has lost up to 14 meters of its mass. This adds to the 50-meter loss of glaciers across the Pyrenees between 1980 and 2010. According to studies, of the 53 glaciers recorded in 1850, 33 have disappeared, most after 1980. “The Pyrenees are the only mountain range on the planet where the extinction of glaciers will happen in one generation: ours,” says Jordi Camins, glaciologist and member of the Catalan Group of Climate Change Experts (GECC).
    6Monte Perdido glacier (Huesca) Climate change is destroying Spain’s last glaciers. In the Pyrenees, more than 80% of glaciers are gone and it is possible they will completely disappear by 2050. According to the Pyrenees Institute of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the glacier at Monte Perdido has shrunk by five meters in the last decades, although in some areas it has lost up to 14 meters of its mass. This adds to the 50-meter loss of glaciers across the Pyrenees between 1980 and 2010. According to studies, of the 53 glaciers recorded in 1850, 33 have disappeared, most after 1980. “The Pyrenees are the only mountain range on the planet where the extinction of glaciers will happen in one generation: ours,” says Jordi Camins, glaciologist and member of the Catalan Group of Climate Change Experts (GECC).
  • Although the rise in temperatures will affect the whole world, Spain is located on a latitude that makes it especially vulnerable to global warming and temperature spikes. Studies suggest the country will experience more intense and longer heat waves. The hottest years in Spain have occurred within the last decade: 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
    7Madrid Río park (Madrid) Although the rise in temperatures will affect the whole world, Spain is located on a latitude that makes it especially vulnerable to global warming and temperature spikes. Studies suggest the country will experience more intense and longer heat waves. The hottest years in Spain have occurred within the last decade: 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
  • Climate change alters ecosystems and endangers local flora and fauna. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), around 50% of species studied have been affected by climate change. The disappearance of bees will take an especially heavy toll on agriculture. Around 70% of Spain’s most important crops rely on insects, such as bees, for pollination. Bee populations, however, have fallen drastically this century due to climate change and other factors such as the use of insecticides and the spread of predators such as the Asian hornet and European bee-eater bird.
    8Godelleta (Valencia) Climate change alters ecosystems and endangers local flora and fauna. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), around 50% of species studied have been affected by climate change. The disappearance of bees will take an especially heavy toll on agriculture. Around 70% of Spain’s most important crops rely on insects, such as bees, for pollination. Bee populations, however, have fallen drastically this century due to climate change and other factors such as the use of insecticides and the spread of predators such as the Asian hornet and European bee-eater bird.
  • Flames and smoke rise up during a forest fire in Lousame, near A Coruña, on August 30, 2013. The rise in the average global temperature and less rainfall will create the perfect conditions for forest fires, especially in mountainous areas. Over the past years, forest fires have become larger (consuming more than 500 hectares), more severe and more difficult to control.
    9Lousame (A Coruña) Flames and smoke rise up during a forest fire in Lousame, near A Coruña, on August 30, 2013. The rise in the average global temperature and less rainfall will create the perfect conditions for forest fires, especially in mountainous areas. Over the past years, forest fires have become larger (consuming more than 500 hectares), more severe and more difficult to control.
  • Scientific studies show that climate change will cause more intense fires and greater deforestation as Mediterranean forests are less able to recover. Spain is prone to forest fires due to high temperatures, strong winds and dry vegetation. Last year, wildfires destroyed 150,000 hectares of land between January and July after the country saw one of its driest winters on record. It rains 25% less than 50 years ago – a figure that translates to up to 16 billion liters of water – and average temperatures have also risen by between 5ºC and 8ºC.
    10Villa Viejas (Cuenca) Scientific studies show that climate change will cause more intense fires and greater deforestation as Mediterranean forests are less able to recover. Spain is prone to forest fires due to high temperatures, strong winds and dry vegetation. Last year, wildfires destroyed 150,000 hectares of land between January and July after the country saw one of its driest winters on record. It rains 25% less than 50 years ago – a figure that translates to up to 16 billion liters of water – and average temperatures have also risen by between 5ºC and 8ºC.