The changing environment in the Mediterranean region

Recent anthropogenic climate change is manifest in the Mediterranean, alongside other changes in the environment such as sea and air pollution, soil degradation and biodiversity loss. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly highlighted the region as particularly vulnerable. Besides the various direct regional consequences of climate change (e.g. heat waves, ocean acidification, extreme precipitation events, droughts, sea-level rise, ocean circulation changes etc.), the combined impacts of landscape and ecosystem degradation due to urbanization, pollution, and unsustainable use of the land and the sea are widely recognized as a severe problem.

The shared history and the close connections between countries and regions bordering the Mediterranean call for strong cooperation with respect to adaptation to, and mitigation of ongoing environmental change. Yet a comprehensive assessment of recent trends, likely future development and the consequences of environmental change for natural systems, the economy and human well- being, including questions of poverty and migrations, is still lacking. Existing assessments cover only parts of the region in disconnected chapters (e.g. the reports of the IPCC or the World Bank) or only some topics (e.g. climate variability). While substantial scientific knowledge exists (e.g. in leading research institutions around the Mediterranean, from large European projects such as CIRCE or MedCLIVAR), a coherent and comprehensive synthesis and assessment of recent and expected changes for environmental policy is lacking.

There is widely shared concern that, in the Mediterranean region, research activities, monitoring data and other knowledge generation about climate change and other environmental changes are insufficiently coordinated. Observational data and research findings are not easily accessible and therefore insufficiently used to inform climate and other environmental policy at regional, national and local levels. The large difference in monitoring and research effort in different parts of the region is creating unbalanced information. These gaps have been pointed out on many occasions, e.g., by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) at a meeting in October 2014 in Barcelona as well as by the MEDCOP21 Conference organized in June 2015 in Marseille.