Spain expected to be badly hit by climate change

Spain is one of the EU countries expected to be most severely affected by the climate crisis, according to analysis by the Elcano Royal Institute (ERI).

The ERI study said that rainfall in the poor region of Extremadura, one of the main producers of ham, has fallen by around 35% in the past 50 years. Some 20% of mainland Spain is already desertified, due to climate change and human responsibility, such as overexploitation of water, particularly groundwater extraction, and 74% is at risk of desertification. 

It added that the Doñana National Park in Andalucia, home to one of Europe’s largest wetlands, is under threat from intensive farming.

The analysis points out that Spain has many reservoirs to ensure the availability of water, a lot of which were built during the Franco regime (1939-75), but they rely on rainfall. Indeed, the country experienced its longest-running drought in 2022 since records began in 1961, according to AEMET, the meteorological agency, although rain last December and part of January this year has improved the situation. 

Total water in reservoirs was at 51.3% of capacity at the end of January, up from 44.8% a year earlier but below the 10-year average of 57.8%. The reservoir at Buendía, one of the biggest, a village where I have a house, is at 24% capacity.

According to the ERI, the country emits around 0.8% of the world’s greenhouse gases and accounts for 9% of the EU’s gases (the sixth-largest emitter). Spain’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions peaked at 8.47 tonnes in 2005 and dropped to 4.92 tonnes in 2021, as measures to combat climate change began to bite and the country became more environmentally conscious. 

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