The rise in temperatures, due to the effect of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere; the rise in sea level, which will flood coastal areas and affect beaches and infrastructure; the advance of desertification, and the loss of biodiversity, both animal and plant, are the main threats of global warming in the Canary Islands, a territory where it will rain less and less and will be more exposed to extreme weather events.
The cocktail of phenomena related to climate change – in which some experts include tropical diseases due to the proximity to the African continent and the transit of migratory birds and people – accentuates the vulnerability of an Archipelago that, thanks to its climate, is today by today one of the main tourist destinations in the world, a sector that represents a third of the Gross Domestic Product of the Islands.
The president of the Scientific Committee of the Government of the Canary Islands for Climate Change and Circular and Blue Economy, Aridane González, already warned, in an interview with this newspaper, of the “high fragility” of the population and of infrastructures in the coastal areas and of the socioeconomic effects that will cause sea level rise: “Not only will we lose meters of emblematic beaches such as Las Teresitas or Las Canteras, but beaches such as Cofete, in Fuerteventura, or the beaches of the south of Tenerife or Gran Canaria, may disappear, since they are in slopes with less slope. But houses will also be lost and hotels and tourist venues near the shore will be affected ”.
In addition, he underlined the consequences of the change experienced by atmospheric currents, which exposes the Islands to the routes of tropical storms – last year one of them pointed to the Canary Islands as a possible trajectory – and highlighted the impact of rising temperatures on ecosystems -in the sea, endemisms and sensitive species such as sebadales and algae are being lost- and agriculture, the intensification of haze episodes and the dryness of the land: “The Archipelago has 90% of its territory at risk of desertification, so we need to act and we have to start adapting now ”.
In the Canary Islands, being islands and being located in a subtropical zone, the tropicalization of the climate is more clearly appreciated. Experts recommend the creation of more green areas, low emission areas, a greater weight of renewable sources to generate electricity, modernize the hotel plant (promoting thermal insulation of establishments and promoting the use of clean energy) and offer tourists facilities for their mobility with alternative means to the vehicle.
In fact, in recent years there has been a notable increase in tourists who choose to spend their holidays in hotels that apply energy efficiency measures. Visitors increasingly value having low consumption lighting, the efficient use of water or the installation of thermal insulation systems on the facades.
Another real threat is forest fires, which will become increasingly virulent and, therefore, more difficult to control, as has been verified last summer in Sierra Bermeja, in the province of Malaga, or last year in Gran Canaria with accidents of “Sixth generation”, which release such an amount of energy that they modify the weather and the winds of the place. The forest fire alert is no longer only in force in the summer season, it extends throughout the year.
“One consequence of climate change is the increase in the frequency of extreme heat episodes, which happen more and more and tend to be more and more intense,” says Víctor Quintero, delegate of the State Meteorological Agency in the Canary Islands.
His words are supported by the episodes of high temperatures registered in mid-August in La Aldea (Gran Canaria) and the Tenerife South airport, where 45.7 and 44.3 degrees were reached in the shade, respectively. The data from the southern airport equals the record registered by the same station in August 1988. The latest report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change has warned about the “irreversible” effects of global warming and has warned that institutions and citizens they are obliged to adapt to the risks.
Rethink the map
The Minister of Ecological Transition, Fight against Climate Change and Territorial Planning of the Government of the Canary Islands, José Antonio Valbuena, has been in favor of “rethinking what is the map we want to give to our coastlines”, given the forecast of the increase in the level of sea, but has also underlined the “very profound effects” on the primary sector, due to the reduction of rainfall and the advance of desertification, especially from 2050, “due to the displacement of oceanic and atmospheric currents” .
The long-term projections draw a picture with less rainfall -with the consequent reduction of aquifers- and a loss of bellows from the trade winds, recalls the counselor.
Finally, Valbuena recalled that the objective set by the Canary Islands is decarbonisation in 2040, that is, “that it be neutral in terms of greenhouse gases. It can be achieved, it will not be easy, but we have it within reach ”.