Climate Change in the Mediterranean

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Climate change and global warming are among the most important issues facing humanity, deeply affecting the world. The after-effects of climate change are also likely to grow and develop over time. In this context, the Mediterranean Basin, which was considered the cradle of civilization in ancient times due to its water resources, is now one of the areas suffering from drought due to climate change.

The temperature increase in the Mediterranean is estimated to be 20% above the global average. This data indicates that 500 million people living in the basin will have to face the devastating effects of global warming earlier than people living in other geographical regions.[1] Moreover, according to a report by the United Nations (UN) Environment Program (UNEP), rising inequality, biodiversity loss, the increasing impact of climate change and relentless pressure on natural resources could lead to irreversible environmental damage in the Mediterranean basin.[2]

In the Mediterranean region, water resources are unevenly distributed, with 72% in the north, 23% in the east and 5% in the south. Thus, water shortages are mainly concentrated in the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries. However, severe droughts between 1990 and 2005 highlighted the fragility of water resources even in the industrialized Northern Mediterranean countries.[3]

The problem of water security in the Mediterranean region has been discussed first by the UN’s environmental bodies and then by initiatives launched by the European Union (EU), other European countries and countries bordering the Mediterranean. The issue of drought in the Mediterranean, which came to the agenda in the second half of the 2010s, is still being discussed in 2022. At this point, the “Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)”, of which 16 countries are members, has taken important initiatives.

One of them is the Integrated Programme for the Protection of Lake Bizerte Against Pollution in Tunisia, 2016-2022.[4] The financial highlight of the program is that it is largely funded by the EU. The European Investment Bank has allocated 40 billion euros, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 19.3 billion euros and the European Commission 14.7 billion euros.

The UfM has also initiated the “Desalination Facility for the Gaza Strip.” This project will help stabilize and replenish the only source of fresh water in Gaza, which is basically the “Coastal Aquifer” that runs under the Gaza Strip, as well as under Israel and Egypt. It is also a prelude to a broader water and wastewater program, including the development of a range of effluents. It is envisaged to be a concrete step towards effectively reducing pollution in the Eastern Mediterranean through the construction of a desalination plant and a modern water distribution system.[5]

As it is well known, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which border the Mediterranean, have become what is called “high politics” in international relations, mainly due to conflicts between countries due to wars and civil wars.

As mentioned earlier, the increase in temperature in the Mediterranean and the acceleration of climate change will bring many problems. Among these problems is food security. As is well known, the world is facing a food security crisis due to the Russia-Ukraine war. However, the situation here is related to disruptions in food supply rather than insufficient food production. In the Mediterranean basin, where agricultural activity is quite high, the expected food crisis will be caused by water shortages and climate change. As Grammenos Mastrojeni, First Deputy Secretary General of the UfM has pointed out, sea level rise in the Mediterranean is not only about the submergence of some coastal cities, but also about the negative impact of salt water on agricultural land in a region where 40% of agricultural activities are carried out by the sea.[6]

In addition, according to the European Commission, severe declines in rainfall have led to drought threats and increased water scarcity in Italy, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Iberian Peninsula. As temperatures rise, Italy’s longest river Po, which is used to irrigate local crops such as rice, maize, and wine, is drying up. In the Southern Mediterranean, Morocco is projected to be completely water-scarce by 2030.[7] Wildfires in the forests of Greece, France and other countries in the region during the summer months are also fueling climate change and negatively affecting the ecosystem.

From a general perspective, it is possible to say that the initiatives of regional governments are insufficient. Although this issue is discussed in platforms other than the UN Climate Program, the UfM and the EU’s environmental bodies, there is a lack of action. The lack of cooperation in the Mediterranean countries in the field of environment and climate is an issue that complicates the search for solutions. Because the area where civilizations were established in the past due to its water wealth is facing extinction in a short period of time.

To summarize, the Mediterranean basin, which has various riches both under the sea and on its coasts, is facing several environmental and deadly problems due to climate change and drought. In this area, where global warming is increasing faster than in other geographies, food security and many vital opportunities are under threat, which may lead to major conflicts in the future.

[1] “Water Security, the Main Challenge of the Mediterranean”, PRIMA,, (Date of Accession: 04.12.2022).

[2] “Mediterranean Basin Facing Irreversible Environmental Damage, Warns New UNEP Report”, UN Environment Program,, (Date of Accession: 04.12.2022).

[3] Ayşegül Kibaroğlu, “Water Challenges in the Mediterranean”, IEMed,, (Date of Accession: 04.12.2022).

[4] “Integrated Programme for the Protection of Lake Bizerte Against Pollution”, Union for the Mediterranean,, (Date of Accession: 04.12.2022).

[5] The “Desalination Facility for the Gaza Strip” Project Unanimously Obtains the UfM Label, Union for the Mediterranean,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

[6] Nour Abdel Fattah, “Mediterranean Region ‘Most Affected’ by Climate Change: UfM”, Anadolu Agency,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

[7] “GDO Analytical Report: Drought in Europe-July 2022”, ReliefWeb,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

Sevinç İrem BALCI
Sevinç İrem Balcı, Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümü mezunudur. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Balcı, aynı zamanda Rusça ve Yunanca öğrenmektedir. Başlıca çalışma alanları Balkanlar ve Avrupa'dır.