The Heat is On

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shocked the world. The UN-commissioned organization is the most internationally-accepted authority on climate change, and its exhaustive report, presented by head Hoesung Lee, gave the world a simple warning: Time is running out.

Quote: The Canarian Goverment’s record on climate change is far from ideal.

The report warned that we have just 12 years to take drastic action on climate change if we want to limit it to a 1.5 degree temperature rise. Even this 1.5 degree rise would increase risks to “health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth”, the report warned.

The report received varying reactions around the world. India and Canada expressed extreme concern about the conclusions, while the EU indicated that it might introduce more drastic measures aimed at reducing emissions. Meanwhile, Australia seemed to pay no attention to the reports warnings about cutting coal consumption, saying it would not cut coal usage based on “some kind of report.” Donald Trump confirmed he had received the report but would not act until he learnt more about those who “drew it”. Read more...

What climate change means for Lanzarote

Lanzarote is an island whose highest point is 671 metres above sea level. The vast majority of the population live just a few metres above sea level in coastal towns such as Arrecife, Playa Honda, Puerto del Carmen and Costa Teguise. It’s main source of income is tourism, which relies heavily on weather conditions and beaches.

Sea levels have risen constantly in the Canaries over the last century, with the greatest increases occurring in recent years. Experts believe this is a result of the melting of the polar icecaps, and a 2007 report estimates that sea levels in the Canaries could rise by between 15 to 35 cm.

The Canaries has seen an increase in the dust storms known as calimas in recent years. This is believed to be due to the weakening of the prevailing north-eastern alisio winds on the island due to temperature rises in the mid-Atlantic. A weakened alisio means that weather systems from the African mainland are more likely to reach the islands, and global warming will also mean hotter air and greater amounts of dust from Africa.

Tropical Storm Delta was the first, and so far the only, recorded tropical storm to hit the Canaries in 2005. However, this year all eyes were on Hurricane Leslie as it threatened to move east towards the islands. Nowadays, Atlantic hurricane season, which usually occurs in late summer, causes global headlines each year. Most experts agree that climate change will lead to a rise in violent and unpredictable weather phenomena.

Coastal erosion
A 2007 report commissioned by the Spanish goverment claimed that beaches could lose 15 metres of land by 2050 as sea levels rise. On Lanzarote, the effects will differ depending on the type of beach and it’s location. Northern beaches will face rougher weather and greater rises, but the southern beaches preferred by tourists could also be diminished, while volatile weather will affect the natural systems that replenish sand.

Heatwaves and desertification
Canarian temperatures have risen by 2 degrees in the last 50 years, with the seas warming by 1 degree. The increased temperatures will affect local wildlife and agriculture, with desertification being a major concern on Lanzarote. Warmer seas have already resulted in toxic algae blooms elsewhere in the Canaries.

What’s being Done?
As a region that is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the Canary Islands’ record on the issue leaves a lot to be desired.

The Canaries is home to many encouraging developments in cutting down carbon emissions. El Hierro, for example, recently achieved full energy self-sufficiency for over 18 days thanks to its impressive Gorona del Viento power plant.

However, many of the most impressive projects are local and/or private initiatives, while the Canarian Government itself has been criticised for failing to address the issue of climate change.

Last year the Canarian Minister for Sustainability, Nieves Lady Barreto, inaugurated the Canarian Observatory for Climate Change on Lanzarote. This organisation is charged with diagnosing the causes and impact of global warming in the Canaries, and deciding on the adequate measures to take. The Observatory ordered a series of commissions, but there have been no results so far.

In July this year Ezequiel Navío, the director of the WWF on Lanzarote who had originally been charged with co-ordinating the Observatory, issued a devastating report saying that the Canarian government had done “nothing” to address climate change and was responsible for leaving the islands “unprotected” in face of the threat.

Navío submitted his report to Canarian Environment Minister Blanca Pérez, who has also been criticised for attending a climate change conference in Morocco without producing any report afterwards. Pérez claimed her presence was as part of the Spanish delegation, but her critics claim she enjoyed a holiday on public money.

Political parties including Nueva Canarias, the Canarian Socialists and Podemos have also been deeply critical of the Canarian Government’s inaction in the face of climate change.

At a national level, the recent appointment of Teresa Ribera as Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition offers more hope for action. Described as a “climate hawk”, Ribera previously served as Secretary for Climate Change from 2008 to 2011 and has been strongly critical of the previous government’s inaction on the issue. Ribera has announced that she wishes to present a new climate change law before the end of this year.