The consequences of the climate crisis in Spain are becoming increasingly clear. The average temperature in the country was 1.7 degrees higher in 2020 than in the pre-industrial era (the 1850s – 1900s). This development also has an impact on public health in Spain.
Controlling greenhouse gas emissions is the central goal of the Paris Agreement. About half of the emitted gases accumulate in the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. The other 50% is absorbed by vegetation and the oceans.
According to the Spanish meteorological service AEMET, despite the pandemic and reduced economic activity, the concentration of the most important gases in the atmosphere has continued to increase in 2020. The concentration of measured carbon dioxide, is higher than ever, warns the World Meteorological Organisation.
Rise in emissions since World War II
AEMET points out that if global emissions continue to grow at the same rate as since the Second World War, when fossil fuels were being used extensively, by the end of the century the temperature will have risen five degrees above pre-industrial levels. In Europe’s worst summer so far, that of 2003, temperatures were only three degrees above average.
More heat waves
In the summer of 2020, there were three heat waves, according to the report. One of them, which lasted nine days, was the third longest since 1975. The increase in heat waves in recent years is also a major consequence of the global climate crisis. It is mainly heatwave records that have soared in recent decades; there are now 11 times more heatwave records than coldwave records.
In the report, AEMET drew attention to the health implications of these phenomena. According to reports from the Carlos III Health Institute, about 1,800 people have died each year due to extreme heat in the past five years.
Environment Minister Hugo Morán also made the connection between public health and warming. During the presentation of the report, he said “there can be no public health if there is no basis for environmental health”. The Congress of Deputies approves the first climate law to eliminate greenhouse gases by 2050′.
According to Minister Morán, this study on climate indicators is ‘the descriptive medical report of our reality’. A reality that over the past decade has seen the warmest years in Spain and the rest of the world. According to an AEMET spokesperson, 2020 was – along with 2017 – the warmest year in Spain since measurements began in the 1960s. The average temperature was 14.7 degrees. The rest of the world also showed a similar picture, despite the effects of storm La Niña in 2020, which led to lower temperatures.
Rise in seawater temperature
The report also looks at the rise in seawater temperatures around Spain. According to AEMET, which used data from Copernicus, a scientific service of the European Commission, the average temperature was 0.5 degrees above normal. 2020 was the second year with higher surface water temperatures in Spain.
Scientific studies suggest that the rise in water temperature may promote the occurrence and damaging effects of extreme phenomena, such as storms. Although rainfall in Spain was within the normal range last year, there was a very intense extreme phenomenon: storm Gloria, which was accompanied by unprecedented torrential rainfall. According to AEMET, Spain is one of the hotspots of climate change, judging by the effects it is already experiencing.