Experts from the University of Valencia (UV) warned this week that the Mediterranean is warming two to three times more than the Earth’s oceans, as revealed by satellite images from the last 35 years. At the same time, the warming is twice as fast in inland and high areas, such as the Penyagolosa mountain range, than in the coast.
In fact, the month of June is now climatically considered summer, while registering a significant loss of usable rainfall in the inland basins of the Segura and Júcar rivers. The latter is especially severe, with a 20% decrease in annual rainfall.
These are some of the conclusions of the research on climate change in the Valencian Community revealed this week in the botanical garden of the UV in order to commemorate the World Environment Day, with the participation of department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition councillor Mireia Mollà, regional secretary for Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition Paula Tuzón and the city’s Deputy Mayor and person responsible for Urban Ecology, Sergi Campillo.
The studies showcased are part of the joint publication ‘Cambio climático en el Mediterráneo. Procesos, riesgos y políticas’ (Climate change in the Mediterranean. Processes, risks and policies), edited by Tirant lo Blanch and coordinated by Human Geography professor for the UV and head of the Prospect Chair Joan Romero, alongside Regional Geographical Analysis professor for the University of Alicante Jorge Olcina. The work’s presentation was led by botanical garden director Jaime Güemes.
The summer arrives sooner, lasts longer and is more intense
Physical Grography professor for the UV María José López explains that the warming of the peninsular Mediterranean region has been calculated to be 1 ºC in the last 35 years, “an increase that essentially takes place in the months of June and July, when the increase reaches 2 ºC, as the warming rate is 0.6 ºC for the year”. “We see that the summer arrives sooner, lasts longer and is becoming more intense,” she adds.
The consequences in the rise of temperature are the subject matter of several scientific fields: it affects the rise of the sea level, influences ocean circulation patterns, the distribution of marine species and the ocean-environment energy exchange processes that impact the weather.
The thermal increase in June is between 2.5 and 3 ºC
“June is the most critical month, as it has gone from climatically being considered spring to summer. It causes a thermal increase of up to 2.5 ºC in the highest inland areas where there are peaks of up to 3 ºC in the Penyagolosa and Gúdar, in the Maestrat district”, says Physical Geography professor for the UV María José Estrela. She also notes the potential of bioclimatic change and the vulnerability of the inland mountain areas with high environmental value. Also relevant, in the opinion of Estrela, is “the regression of the surface of higher altitudinal zones (supramediterranean and oromediterranean), and thus the high risk of loss of plant species that depend on the climatic attributes of these zones, such as the Penyagolosa, Font Roja and Serra de Mariola natural parks.
Regarding rainfall, in general, in the Júcar and Segura basins, the duration of dry spells – the number of consecutive days with no rain – is increasing, whereas the frequency of moderate rainfall, which can be beneficial, is decreasing, in favour of extreme rainfall. “These results are extraordinarily important for an accurate future planning of hydric and land planning policies in the regions of Valencia and Murcia”, says Estrella.
Loss of thermal comfort and tropical nights
Meanwhile, Regional Geographical Analysis professor and director of the Climatology Laboratory of the University of Alicante Jorge Olcina highlighted “the loss of thermal comfort in the Valencian territory, with a very significant increase in warm nights in this geographical strip”. Taking into account the figures on changes on the amount and seasonality of rainfall and the increase in surface temperature of seawater, Olcina says that “the development of measures to mitigate and adapt the Valencian territory to climate change in order to reduce risks is a pressing issue”.
A law to guide climatic policies
The councillor of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climatic Emergency and Ecological Transition, Mireia Mollà, notes that the study’s results “confirm that the Mediterranean is the epicentre of climate change and warn about the danger of climatic inaction”. “Analysing the effects can’t lead to paralysis. We have to equip ourselves with the necessary tools to mitigate a reality that is becoming clearer day after day”, says Mollà, who materialised with the Valencian Climate Change and Ecological Transition Act a framework tool “to guide and succeed with policies to fight against the climatic emergency”.
The councillor addressed the slogan of this year’s World Environment Day (reimagine, recreate, rectore), which transfers the circularity to the natural environment. A criterion that coincides with the new regional law, which forces policies to take into account the declaration of climatic emergency “in the design, development and implementation of the different sectorial public policies”. Lastly, Mireia Mollà thanked the positive nature of the publication: “An open door to making the transition possible with leading public policies adapted to the peculiarities of our territory”.
Towards energetic self-consumption, water saving and sustainability
Valencia deputy mayor Sergi Campillo noted “the essential role of cities to mitigate and adapt to climate change, taking into account that warming is a reality, as shown by the heat island effect”. Due to its location in the western Mediterranean area, “Valencia is very sensitive to the increase in temperatures and the frequency of adverse weather phenomena, such as heat waves or cut-off lows”, says Campillo
For this reason, town hall spokespeople say that “we have been working since 2015 on the project to progress towards a more sustainable city through green infrastructure, while improving the landscape and water consumption efficiency, installing draining paving that provide more water to gardens and boost the important challenge of creating energetic self-consumption communities to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels”. Lastly, Campillo insisted on the duty to preserve the Albufera natural park in light of the increase in salinity of the lake, as well as the stability of beaches, while recalling that Valencia hopes to become European Green Capital in 2024.
Solutions based on nature and biodiversity
Researcher Jaime Güemes, director of the botanical garden of the University of Valencia, recalled that this space “has always been a place to study plant diversity, flora, vegetation and the Mediterranean landscape, whose deterioration we have observed with concern as a result of climate change and the transformation of the territory”. “We have contributed to seek solutions and have represented a forum for discussion between professionals in all disciplines. We are at a critical juncture and we have to be careful so that the adaptation to climatic emergency does not have irreversible consequences on the protected spaces, nor on the centennial landscape that is part of our culture, our identity and our life experiences”, he said.
The botanical garden is working in collaboration with the institutions, Valencia town hall and Generalitat Valenciana (regional government) to provide scientific knowledge and experience in preserving the territory and its biodiversity, in order to find nature-based solutions that help make cities greener, more biodiverse, more sustainable and, as a result, more habitable.
Take on the governing deficit
Professor Joan Romero spoke last, telematically, and focused on several basic topics to take on the climatic emergency, such as the metropolitan mobility model of the several Valencian capitals or the need to produce risk mapping. He also emphasised the “governing deficit”, which he sees as limiting to progress with sustainable policies.
“Eat well and save the climate”
Throughout this week of June, the botanical garden of the UV has also taken part in the “València Cambia por el Clima” (Valencia changes for the climate) initiative promoted by the Service for Climatic Emergency and Energy Transition of Valencia town hall and the València Clima y Energía foundation. Thus, it supports the “Come bien y salva el clima” (Eat well and Save the Climate) campaign, developed in the local markets in order to boost zero-mile food, seasonal products, food sovereignty and others. Furthermore, on Sunday 6 June, the botanical garden will organize informative workshops on organic vegetable gardens – free to attend with prior registration – and will have an informative hotspot for “València Cambia por el Clima”. And there will be an open door day on 5 June.
The botanical garden of the UV is holding the “Tierras y tiempos” (Land and times) exhibition during this period of celebration of the World Environment Day. “Tierras de país y Variaciones de tiempos” (Country land and time variation), a series of paintings from the almost an almost photographic viewpoint to large-format work on Valencian landscapes created by Esteve Adam, located in the Hory de Tramoieres and Estufa Freda halls. The “Llavors d’ací” (Local seeds) exhibition with the “Una semilla en la escuela” (A seed in school) project is also located on the shade garden area, organized by the Centre for International Rural and Agriculture Studies (CERAI) in collaboration with the association for the promotion and preservation of agricultural biodiversity “Llavors d’ací”.
The programming dedicated to the environment will conclude on 16 June with a new “Botánica desde el sofa” (Botanics from the sofa) session, on this occasion focused on land restoration in cities, linked to several actions that affect health and sustainability, and in connection to the Green and Biodiversity Plan of the Valencian government.