THE couNTRY of Spain lies on the Iberian Peninsula on the Mediterranean and Atlantic and is separated from Europe by the Pyrenees Mountains. The central plateau is drained by three rivers. Special geographic features include two sets of archipelagos, with the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Spain has a variety of ecosystems: snowcapped peaks in the Pyrenees, green meadows in Galicia, orange groves in Valencia, and desert in Almeria. The Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol government set aside more than 400 protected areas covering 15,444 sq. mi. (40,000 sq. km.) and protecting a broad range of ecosystems including mountains, wetlands, islands, wood and forest, and volcanic landscapes.
With extremes in temperature and low rainfall, water is a valuable resource. Droughts in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1990s were the driving force behind water policy. The Tajo-Segura water diversion system can divert 600 cu. m. of water per year from Tajo region in central Spain to the Valencia and Murcia regions. In 2000, a National Water Plan (Plan Hidrologico Nacional) intended to double the amount of water diverted from Rio Ebro basin was heavily protested, and in 2004 the plan was cancelled. Although climate models vary on what the temperature increase will be for Spain, from a conservative 3 degrees -4 degrees C to a pessimistic 6 degrees-7 degrees C by the end of the century, Spain is already experiencing the effects of global warming, with glacier melt in the Pyrenees (continued warmer winters would reduce snow cover and tourism to the area for winter sports); Europe's first hurricane (Hurricane Vince), which made landfall on the southwestern coast of Spain in October 2005; and an 11 percent decrease in average rainfall in 2005-06, which followed an extreme drought the year before.
Precipitation is expected to decrease, though not in all areas. Spain's northeast could see an increase in autumn and winter rainfall, and there may be a decrease in rainfall in the arid southwest. Spring and summer precipitation would be expected to decrease, except in the Canary Islands. Higher storm activity under climate change over the adjacent Atlantic is likely to lead to an increase in the intensity of winds over some parts of the country by the end of the century. Maximum wind speeds could increase by 2-4 percent in northwestern Spain by the end of the century, whereas in Galicia, the number of days with high winds could increase by up to 10 percent. Northern Spain could expect increased yield for most crops, and southern Spain could expect decreased yields.
In May 2002, Spain ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, entered into force on February 16, 2005, with Spain's entry into force on the same date.
In July 2007, the Spanish government approved numerous legislative measures related to environmental preservation and mitigating climate change. Spain has made fighting climate change a priority in the government's working agenda. By approving the Spanish Strategy for Climate Change and Clean Energy, Horizon 2007-2012-2020, issued by the Minister of environment, the government reinforced a commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. In addition to a plan for reducing government energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from government buildings and for the increasing use of blended biofuel in official vehicles, increasing energy efficiency with equipment and appliances as well as heating and cooling is a priority. Vehicle registration taxes will be directly related to emissions and responsibility will be put on the consumer (low-emission vehicles will be exempt from the tax, and higher-emission vehicles will be taxed at the highest rate).
See ALSo: Climate Change, Effects; Kyoto Protocol.
BIBLIoGRAPHY. "Climate Change in Spain", http://www.ibe-rianature.com; "The Government Approves More Than 80
Urgent Measures to Tackle Climate Change," http://www. la-moncloa.es/idiomas/en-gb/actualidadhome/200707-consejo.htm; Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs 2006-2007 (W. W. Norton, 2006).
LYN MlCHAUD Independent Scholar
Was this article helpful?