Greece seen facing bleak climate future

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will face droughts, higher temperatures and sea levels, and desertification that will damage agriculture and tourism because of climate change, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said on Friday.

A dead flamingo lies on the dry lake Koronia some 550 km (344 miles) north of Athens September 20, 2007. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

“The problem of parched land and drought will intensify and desertification will speed up (in Greece),” Dimas said in a speech. “Areas in seaside towns like Thessaloniki and Messolongi, will most likely find themselves under water.”

Dimas said the average annual temperature around the Mediterranean had increased by 1 degree Celsius compared with a 0.74 degree rise globally. He did not say to which period this rise was compared.

Greece’s average rainfall in the past few years has fallen by about 30 percent since the mid 1970s. The month of January in 2007 was the driest in half a century while last June was the hottest June on record, scientists have said.

Dimas said climate change is also affecting the flora and fauna of the country with migrating birds flying further north, citing a recent British study. Non-native viruses and diseases have also appeared.

The number of Greek forest fires will increase releasing even more carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, he said.

“This will have consequences to our health. Tourism will receive a blow,” Dimas said.

The European Union’s executive adopted plans last month to cut greenhouse gas emissions, seeking to push the world into tough climate action.

“Greece must meet its Kyoto (environmental) protocol targets diligently,” Dimas said, adding the country must boost alternative energy production, increase investment in energy-saving measures and include climate change measures in every policy.

“Climate change is a global problem in need of a global solution,” Dimas said.

Writing by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Elizabeth Piper