By Stefanos Evripidou
THE CYPRUS Institute marked World Environment Day on Thursday by warning of the dangers of climate change to the region.
The Institute said that by the end of the century the combined hot days and nights in summer will be prolonged and the season will last up to two months longer in Cyprus.
“This result, together with the initial findings for a relation between mortality (especially related to heart disease) and temperature, indicate an increased risk for human health,” said the Institute.
Researchers looked at projected precipitation and temperature change in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East at the end of the 21stcentury. They concluded that most of the region will be affected by drier conditions and likely experience up to 6 degrees Celsius of warming.
In addition to higher temperatures, average annual rainfall is expected to drop significantly, putting pressure on water supplies for drinking and irrigation.
The higher temperatures and diminishing water reserves mean that the cultivation of durum wheat will almost disappear, and the need for air conditioning will increase, indicating a bump in electricity consumption of two or three-fold. This in turn will have detrimental effects on health, especially respiratory and cardiac conditions.
The Cyprus Institute added that overexploitation of natural resources, the dumping of pollutants and other harmful substances and the consequences of climate change are threatening the environment and increasingly reduce the variety of plants and animals on our plant.
Stopping pollution and halting global warming would be the best ‘therapy’ but is deemed a not very realistic prospect, said the Institute.
Instead environmental researchers aim to better understand what exactly the current status of our environment is and where the most pressing problems lie; as well as gain a better understanding as to what exactly and at what ‘dosage’ the ‘medicine’ would have to be applied in order to regain environmental integrity.
Some of the research being done at the Institute to better understand natural processes and preserve the environment includes developing a national strategy for adaptation to climate change’s adverse impacts in Cyprus. Other studies look at reducing irrigation water use with wireless technologies.
Agriculture feeds the world’s population but also uses 900bn cubic metres of irrigation water per year globally, marking on average of more than 350 litres per person per day.
The Institute has been working with a group of European researchers on a new irrigation support system to make irrigation more efficient. The new “revolutionary smart irrigation system for farmers and water providers” helps to monitor water use and irrigate only where and when needed and only for as long as needed, using wireless sensors and high resolution weather prediction systems.
Researchers are testing the new ‘Enorasis’ system in a grapefruit orchard in Akrotiri owned by the largest citrus producer in Cyprus, Phassouri Plantations Company.
The Institute is also studying and evaluating the health of marine habitats under climate change. Severe changes of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem are widely anticipated in response to climate conditions, the impact of anthropogenic activities and natural disturbances, said the statement.
This year’s World Environment Day theme, marked in over 100 countries, focuses on small developing islands and climate change.