A Mediterranean basin without a Mediterranean climate? (case study)

In January 2020, the McKinsey Global Institute published Climate risk and response: Physical hazards and socioeconomic impacts. In that report, the impact of climate change is measured by the extent to which it could affect human beings, human-made physical assets, and the natural world over the next three decades. In order to link physical climate risk to socioeconomic impact, nine specific cases are investigated that illustrate exposure to climate change extremes and proximity to physical thresholds.

On one of the case studies is:

A Mediterranean basin without a Mediterranean climate ?”

The Mediterranean basin is often perceived as the ultimate in climate, comfort, and culture. Year-round, millions of visitors from all over the world flock to enjoy the mild climate, wine and food, and stunning scenery. However, climate change may harshen the Mediterranean climate and disrupt vital industries such as tourism and agriculture. The mean temperature in the Mediterranean basin has increased 1.4 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, compared with the global average of 1.1 degrees—and absent targeted decarbonization, temperatures are projected to increase by an additional 1.5 degrees by 2050. Rising temperatures are expected to raise hydrological variability, increasing the risk of drought, water stress, wildfires, and floods.

In this case study, the consequences of a changing climate for Mediterranean communities and economies are examined with a focus on heat- and precipitation-related aspects of climate change, though coastal flooding will also have an impact. Climate projections indicate that the annual number of days with a maximum temperature above 37 degrees will increase everywhere in the Mediterranean region, with a doubling in North Africa, southern Spain, and Turkey from 30 to 60 by 2050. Many areas could see a decline in water supplies of between 10 and 25 percent between 2030 and 2050. Heat and drought conditions further increase the risk of wildfires and disease. In the Iberian Peninsula, for example, the expected annual area burned by wildfire is projected to double by 2050.

Then the economic impacts of climate change in tourism and farming are explored. Physical climate change is likely to increase spatial inequality across countries and regions within Europe. An increase in the number of “too hot” days in a given region could discourage tourism in peak season, which today accounts for approximately 15 percent of the GDP of Mediterranean countries while other northern countries may benefit from a warmer climate. Agriculture will likely be impacted. Farmers in many places have already seen their crop yields diminish and become less predictable, a trend that is likely to continue. Areas known for the quality of their wine grapes, for example, risk losing prominence on the viticulture map while nontraditional growing regions could gain advantage.

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