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rising sea levels

Rising sea levels

Fuerteventura will be the Canary island most affected by rising sea levels and global warming.

The population and economy of the archipelago will be significantly affected over the coming years. "The erosive processes that will occur on the Canarian coast over the remainder of the century will affect 11% of the GDP of the Canary Islands", is what emerges from a study that has analyzed different scenarios in the advance of sea level rise in the Islands.


The Minister of Ecological Transition, José Antonio Valbuena, has requested an appearance to inform the rest of the political groups of the results of the Plan to Promote the Environment (PIMA) Adapts Canary Coasts in the face of data that reflect large losses of beaches, infrastructure or assets of interest, among others.


The counselor has assured that the results "are not good" and that the forecasts are that in the Canary Islands the average temperature will increase between three and 4.5 degrees, when the Paris summit put a limit of an increase of 1.5 degrees.


Consequences on costs


One of the main issues analyzed in the document is the estimated direct economic losses that can reach 11% of GDP, that is, 4,500 million euros per year. Although these data exclude port infrastructures, so the percentage is expected to have a greater magnitude.


In addition, the expected effects are greater in the eastern islands, with less relief, than in the western ones. Fuerteventura, and especially the municipalities of Pájara and La Oliva; Lanzarote, specifically Teguise and Haría; and Gran Canaria with San Bartolomé de Tirajana and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria at the head, are the territories that will suffer the most from the consequences of rising sea levels.


Loss of beaches


In relation to our greatest value for tourism, the beaches of the island "the most important impact and that may compose up to 75% of the estimated direct economic losses, corresponds to the effects of structural or permanent erosion on the tourist beaches of the Archipelago". Thus, the worst scenario estimates that in 2050 147 tourist beaches will be affected "with a total loss of surface area of 10.6% and a productive value of more than 1,000 million euros per year".


In the longer term, the counselor explained that the forecasts are that "between now and the end of the century almost 45% of our beaches will be occupied and affected by the average sea level." The first beaches that the report analyzes that will be lost are in Tenerife and these are the beaches of Alcalá and Las Mercedes.


Infrastructures affected


According to the document, "most of the modeled effects on critical infrastructure will occur on sections of island roads and highways." Thus, the document adds that apart from the land transport routes, "probable effects have been detected on power production plants on several islands, carrying significant risks on the energy supply of the archipelago, and in some dangerous facilities (chemical and radiological)".


The most critical infrastructures in this scenario have also been considered. 127 critical infrastructures have been counted "that will have to be modified from their current location or replaced", among them is the water treatment plant of Puerto del Rosario or the Las Salinas Thermal Power Plant (which will be dismantled) or Lanzarote Airport.


Heritage in danger


Also added to the losses caused by global warming, 38 assets of cultural interest such as the Charco de la Aldea, Puerto de la Luz Market and the Castillo de la Luz in Gran Canaria, the Cal de la Guirra Ovens in Fuerteventura or the Lake of Costa Martianez, in Tenerife, as listed by the counselor.


For its part, the consequences on the natural heritage have "a smaller capacity from the conceptual point of view but important from the qualitative point of view", Valbuena has contemplated. The summary of the study is that 0.20% of the protected natural areas will be affected, 0.30% of the special area of conservation, 0.05% of the special area of protection for birds and fauna, and habitats of community interest around 0.37%.


The worst-case scenario


In total, the study analyzes different points to analyze the danger, exposure and vulnerability of the Canary Islands, so that the risks faced by the Archipelago in the face of the rise in sea level caused by global warming can be known. Thus, 25 different scenarios have been analyzed of which "it should be noted that of all the scenarios we find the most pessimistic," said the counselor.


Local administrations still ignore

Given the figures that show great affections for the Canary Islands, all the politicians present at the hearing have been in favor of seeking measures to "mitigate" these effects and even doubts have arisen about whether it is time, in fact, to find a solution. "If we manage to approve the Climate Change Law, the Government of the Canary Islands has the tools to take the measures," said Valbuena after opining that with local administrations "I do not perceive that the problem of the figures has penetrated". "Consensus is necessary, but action is more necessary," he explained.
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