Scientists warn of rising Mediterranean Sea level

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If current trends continue, the Mediterranean Sea level could rise by up to half a metre in the next 50 years, with catastrophic consequences for coastal areas, Spanish scientists have warned.

The Mediterranean Sea level has been increasing “between 2.5 and 10 millimetres per year since the 1990s and if the trend continues, the level of the Sea will rise between 12.5 centimetres and a half a metre in next the 50 years,” argue the authors of a study entitled ‘Climate Change in the Spanish Mediterranean’, published on 18 January 2008. 

The authors reveal that the rapid increase in the level of the sea coincides with a considerable increase in temperatures during the same period.

The study, conducted by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), argues that if the trend continues, even a smaller increase would have “very serious consequences”, whereas an increase of a half a metre would be “catastrophic” for coastal areas. 

‘Climate Change in the Spanish Mediterranean’ is a study of the evolution of the temperature, level and salinity of the Mediterranean between 1948 and today. During the time span of the study, researchers observed two clearly distinctive periods: one from 1948 to the mid-1970s, and the other from the mid-1970s until today.

During the first period, decreases in both air temperature and the superficial layer of the sea were observed, whereas since the mid-1970s, there have tended to be significant increases in temperature, “with the rate of increase growing in recent years”.

The scientists underline that even though it is too soon to ascertain whether this trend is going to continue in the coming decades, the growing rate of increase in sea levels has been a global phenomenon since the 1990s.

The EU has been taking measures to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming, since the early 1990s. Since the turn of the millenium, it has adopted a number of new policies and measures, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), in the framework of the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP).

In June 2007, the Commission launched a public consultation on policy measures needed to lessen the impact and cost of increasing climate change-related calamities such as floods and forest fires. The EU executive will, in 2008, publish both a Communication on the impact of climate change on human and animal health and a Communication on adaptation to climate change.

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