The Portuguese government has announced it will be investing €3.5 million in the development of a programme created specifically to promote measures and projects that will help the country adapt to climatic changes.
The funds are to be invested in a new programme named AdaPT – Adapting Portugal to Climate Change – which aims to promote ways of adjusting to the effects of climate change on a local level as well as raising awareness and educating people about the phenomenon.
The money will also be used to fund pilot-projects among priority sectors within the National Strategy for the Adaptation to Climatic Changes (ENAAC).
“With the AdaPT programme we intend to contribute towards a greater ability to assess vulnerabilities to climate change and raise awareness and educate within that matter”, said Jorge Moreira da Silva, Minister for the Environment, Land Ordinance and Energy, during an international conference held last week in Lisbon.
Commenting on the news, Filipe Duarte Santos, a leading Portuguese specialist in climate change and teacher at Lisbon University’s Faculty of Sciences, told The Portugal News that rolling out the programme “could be the beginning of a process of adaptation to climate changes on a national level.”
“The new AdaPT programme will be very important to inform and raise awareness among people and institutions of the need that we have to adapt to a changing climate”, he said.
In the researcher’s opinion, the programme is “well-designed and well-financed and responds to the country’s current needs in terms of adapting to climate change.
“It could have been started earlier, but I believe we are now on the right path”, he added.
According to Professor Santos some councils, such as Cascais, Sintra and Almada, have already introduced strategies to adjust to the changing climate following early studies into the impacts of and vulnerabilities to climate change in Portugal, which were first published in 2002.
“But there are no adaptation strategies in other regions, on a municipal level, especially for the South of Portugal, which is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change”, he stressed.
The specialist believes that Portugal and other southern European countries, such as Spain, Italy and Greece, are among the most vulnerable to climate change in Europe. He says future scenarios will see less rain in southern Europe and the Mediterranean, and more extreme weather phenomena will become more frequent worldwide.
Worryingly perhaps for many, heat-waves and droughts will become increasingly frequent in southern Europe and the consequences of rising sea levels should also be borne in mind, says Professor Santos.
In Portugal specifically the average sea level will “very probably” rise by more than fifty centimetres before the end of this century, in comparison to the end of last century.
Furthermore, currently, 67 percent of Portugal’s coastline is at risk of advancing sea levels and a loss of terrain.
“Climate change will increase the risk of flooding in the lower areas along the coastline. It will be necessary to promote an adaptation of the ordinance and activities on the coastline, to adjust to this new reality”, he concluded.
A recently-published report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is part of the United Nations, highlighted that the majority of aspects relating to climate change will endure for many centuries to come, even if CO2 gas emissions ceased completely.
“Therefore, investing in adaptation is inevitable for us to have a more resilient society”, a statement from Portugal’s Ministry for the Environment explained.
The IPCC’s report estimates that if society fails to adapt to the effects of climate change it could cost the EU €100 billion a year by 2020, and €250 billion a year by 2050.
It also revealed that other impacts of climate change predicted for Portugal are an overall drop in rainfall but with the threat of short bursts of intense rain that raise the risk of flooding.
In hotter months more droughts and forest fires can be expected.
The overall lack of rain will reduce river basin levels by up to 40 percent, the IPCC predicts, and will cause farming to shrink by 20 percent. Extreme climate phenomena will also take their toll on food safety.
Rises in temperatures – which could reach 48 degrees Celsius – will have negative effects on animal health, and also as a consequence, a reduction in food production.
Scientists believe pastures and cereal fields will also dry out, and a lack of food could result in 90 percent of the population being undernourished.
The availability of drinkable water will lessen due to the rising sea levels, and as a result potable water will become saltier.
Climate change will further cause the Gross Domestic Product to fall by between five and ten percent, or even by 14 percent if nothing is done to protect the coast from rising sea levels, the IPCC predicted.