Could global warming sink your holiday plans?

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The Independent Online
Climate change could ruin the appeal of Mediterranean resorts visited by British holiday makers, Greenpeace warns today. But if forecasts of famine, flood and drought come true, a decline in tourism could be the least of the problems, says Nicholas Schoon, Environment Correspondent

Shrinking beaches, water and food shortages could all become the norm around the Mediterranean, according to a Greenpeace report.

Commissioned from a freelance consultant, it has been timed for the run up to the Kyoto Climate Summit in Japan next month when nations will negotiate on what they must do to reduce climate change.

To try to beef it up for an audience of northern Europeans, whose governments are in the lead in advocating the toughest action to address the threat, Greenpeace is emphasising the threat to tourism.

More than 100 million people visit the sea's extensive, sunny coastline each year, and this had been projected to rise to as much as 340 million by 2025. ``Now this ... is under threat as the possible impacts of climate change are more fully realised,'' says Greenpeace. All the more reason to reduce the world's rising consumption of fossil fuels, emissions from which are changing the heat balance of the atmosphere.

The report is based on estimates for sea level and temperature rises in the next century made by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which brings together most of the leading climatologists from around the world. But Greenpeace has chosen to emphasise its worst- case scenarios for 2100.

Temperatures are expected to rise by up to 4C over many inland areas. Annual rainfall is projected to fall by 10-40 per cent over much of Africa and south-eastern Spain with smaller but potentially significant changes elsewhere.

As oceans expand and glaciers melt in a warmer world, sea levels could rise by almost one metre by the end of the next century. Venice, the Nile Delta and Thessaloniki in Greece could witness sea level rises 50 per cent higher, because they are already subsiding.

In Egypt it is estimated that a sea level rise of only 0.5 metres would displace 16 per cent of the population if the coastline and riverbanks of the Nile Delta were not defended against the rising sea. Much of the population lives on the low-lying delta. Beach resorts could lose much of their sand.

Deserts may spread northwards and water resources will come under strain. Already Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Syria have only about 1,000 cubic metres a year or less of water per person - a UN marker for water scarcity.

Yields of grain and other crops could suffer because of droughts. Livestock production will also suffer because of deterioration of grazing land. One study predicts large parts of Spain, southern Italy and Greece could become unsuitable for cereal growing.

Warmer conditions are likely to increase cases of malaria, schistosomiasis, yellow fever and dengue fever.