Climate Change Agriculture and Water Resources in the Mediterranean Region

The last IPCC (2007) report pointed out clearly the climate variability observed in the last decades, very probably due to the higher concentration of CO2 and other gases emissions related to human activity. Particularly, the increment in the frequency of extreme event, as droughts and flooding, has been considered also as a climate-change consequence. Despite that temperature rising could be expected all over the world, rainfall changes are different according to the regions. Northern regions might expect increment in yearly rainfall, while total precipitation in other zones, as the Mediterranean regions, could be significantly lower during the second half of the 20 century (IPCC, 2007).

Climate change will bring important consequences to agriculture, perhaps the man activity most dependants on meteorological conditions. According to IPCC (2007), general yield changes, freezing-loosing reductions, increment in crop and livestock damages due to higher temperature and other adverse and positive changes can be expected in the future. Those consequences will be different according to the regions.

The IPCC Working Group II, aimed to assess Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerabilities on natural managed and human systems; reported significant changes on several physical and biological systems in Europe from 1970 to 2004. Most of those changes are consistent with the expected response to temperature rising and cannot explained by natural variability (IPCC, 2007). According to the IPCC Working Group II, Climate Change is expected to magnify regional differences in Europe's natural resources and assets. In Southern Europe, climate change is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydropower potential, summer tourism and, in general, crop productivity (IPCC, 2007).

One of the main achievements of the IPCC (2007) fourth assessment is its confirmation, through new data and documentary proves, of many previsions that had been already made in the previous IPCC assessments. For instance, the IPCC (2001) report already pointed out the Climate-Change related risks on European and World agriculture.

Olesen and Bindi (2002) studied the climate change impact to European agriculture, considering several regions within Europe. According to them, Mediterranean agriculture will be the most affected, due to precipitation reduction in the zone, which will bring lesser water availability. Water scarcity, combined to higher transpiration rates due to temperature increments, will mean a challenge for irrigated agriculture in Southern Europe. Those conclusions agree with the IPCC (2007) last report. Despite rainfall changes are less confident than temperature rising at the global scale, many of the modelling assessments included in the IPCC (2007) report coincided in predicting less rainfall in the Mediterranean region.

Besides long-term climate-change effects, its related climate variability and the increment in extreme-events frequency (IPCC, 2007) can mean important constraints to agriculture. The higher mean temperature of 2003 summer is a good example of that. Such warm summer brought many agricultural loosing, particularly in France (Seguin et al., 2004).

The European Commission is aware about the Climate Change risks that can be expected in Europe. The European Environmental Agency released a Technical Report aimed to point out the vulnerability and adaptation to Climate Change in Europe (EEA, 2006). The report indicates that Southern Europe, the Mediterranean and central European regions are the most vulnerable to Climate Change. Considering vulnerabilities by issues, the EEA (2006) technical report considered that Climate Change and increased CO2 atmospheric concentration could bring a beneficial impact on Northern European agriculture, through longer growing season and increasing plan productivity. However, in the South and parts of Eastern Europe the impacts are likely to be negative (EEA, 2006). The EEA (2006) report gives special attention to water resources availability in Southern Europe as one of the most important Climate-Change expected risks. The report remarks the importance of adopting concrete measures and policies on National and EU Adaptation plans to Climate Change, although it is a relative new issue.

Due to the importance of water resources management under Climate Change conditions, the European Environmental Agency released recently a Technical Report addressed to this issue (EEA, 2007). Two main impacts are recognized in the report: Flooding risks in Northern and Central Europe, as well as water scarcity in Southern countries. According to EEA (2007), several adaptation measures have been taken regarding flooding, but few have been addressed to water scarcity. Furthermore, three priorities are pointed out in the EEA (2007) report. The top priority for adaptation in the water sector should be to reduce the vulnerabilities of people and societies to shifts in hydro-meteorological trends, increased climate variability and extreme events. A second priority is to protect and restore ecosystems that provide water resources services. The third priority should be to close the gap between water supply and demand by enhancing actions that reduce demands (EEA, 2007). The report also recognize the need of research on climate-change impacts in water sector, as well as the interactions among European, national and local decision-making levels.

Besides the EEA (2006) and (2007) reports, the European Commission is preparing a "Green Book" regarding Climate Change to be released late 2007. The first draft (EC, 2007) of such "Green Book" identifies also the Mediterranean region as the most risky zone within Europe, due to the combination of temperature rising with precipitation reductions. Concerning the future of European agriculture, the Green Book points out that Climate Change would be one of several challenges, as world-trade globalisation and rural population decrement. Furthermore, the Common Agricultural Policy and several other EU policies and directives can effectively influence in climate-change adaptation issues, as water use efficiency and pollution risks (EC, 2007).

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