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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Environmental activist on heat in Spain: “Spain will be less popular”

Heat makes outdoors impossible on many days in summer, says Javier Andaluz from Ecologistas en Acción. The population will shift in the country.

Two people are standing at a zebra crossing, protecting themselves from the heat with bath towels

42 degrees Celsius: In July, tourists look for shade in Malaga Photo: Jesus Merida/ZUMA Wire/imago

taz: Mr. Andaluz, Spain breaks one heat record after another year after year. This year, the Canary Islands, known for their mild climate, reported 44.8 degrees and a temperature of 41 degrees at one in the morning. The north of Spain experienced heat waves with temperatures just below 40 degrees. Is it always like this now?

Javier Andaluz: Scientific studies show that we are increasingly feeling the consequences of the climate emergency. We will probably be reporting one record after another for years to come, because the CO2-Emissions are not decreasing. And it takes around 20 years from the moment they are released to the effects they show. That means, even if we don’t have any CO today2 would emit more, the temperatures would not initially fall. But it’s not just the temperatures that should worry us, but the weather variations we experience in summer.

38, is a climate expert for the organization Ecologistas en Acción. He sits on the Spanish Climate Council, a government advisory body.

What do you mean by that?

This year we already had heat waves in May and June, which is usually only the case in midsummer. The so-called tropical nights, i.e. nights in which temperatures do not fall below 25 degrees, are increasing. In the 1980s, that was a handful of days in midsummer inland. Now there are tropical nights for several weeks. In addition, there is heavy rain, the so-called Gota Fría. These are normal in Spain, but only in late summer and limited to a narrow strip along the Mediterranean in the east. Now we are seeing such rains with hail and floods more and more frequently, even in May. The affected area is expanding inland. This is directly related to the increase in water temperature in the Mediterranean.

Given this, how long will tourists continue to come to Spain?

The Mediterranean coasts in the south and southeast of Spain will increasingly suffer from the heat. In some places in Spain it is already impossible to do anything outside the home between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. I can’t predict when this will affect tourism, but it will have an impact. Spain’s popularity as a holiday destination will decline due to fears of heat and storms. As we face global climate change, other countries and regions that have not been so attractive will become more popular. For example, the beaches on the French Atlantic coast or those in the south of Great Britain. There we will suddenly find conditions like those in southern Spain 20 years ago.

Are the climate zones changing? In May and June we had cumulus clouds on the Spanish plateau almost day after day, which led to strong thunderstorms every afternoon. Is Spain slipping into a different climate zone, more subtropical?

That’s probably how it is. But to actually confirm this, we need to monitor developments for at least two decades.

Doctors worry less about the high daytime temperatures than about the hot nights. At temperatures above 30 degrees, the human body no longer recovers during sleep. Will the heat in much of Spain soon become incompatible with human life?

That depends on our capacity to adapt. Of course we can live in air-conditioned houses. The question is what happens to the ecosystems as such.

The ground temperature increases. The European monitoring system Copernicus measured temperatures of 50 to over 60 degrees in large parts of Spain. Is this still compatible with agriculture – an important economic sector?

What Copernicus shows – not just for the soils, but also for the temperatures of the seas – is worrying. We are at the limit of what most of our ecosystems can tolerate. The big problem in Spain is desertification and desertification. If the average temperature actually rises by 2 degrees, over 60 percent of the country will be affected. The high ground temperatures cause the soil to dry out. It has rained off and on in the last few months, but the soil does not store the water, it evaporates.

Will this lead to a shift in population within Spain, perhaps from the south to the north?

Of course, there are many places where everyone lives from agriculture or from tourism. If both industries collapse, people will no longer have any prospects and will have to leave.

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