More floods but more drought because of climate change. | Alejandro Sepúlveda


According to the regional government's first study of climate change vulnerability, the Balearics can in future expect rain of a more torrential kind than at present, more violent sea storms and prolonged periods of drought.

The study has been conducted to inform what is said to be pioneering legislation on climate change that the Balearic government will introduce. It concludes that changes will have consequences for infrastructure and housing, the excesses of construction having contributed to making the Balearics more vulnerable. More intense heat waves will, in the medium term, generate "islands of urban heat", meaning that buildings not adapted to deal with more extreme conditions will place more demand on energy. There will also be a deterioration in materials used in construction and therefore structural deformation.

The director-general for energy, Joan Groizard, says that a rise in sea level will have more impact on built-up areas than on natural ones. Buildings by the sea could be threatened by a rising level and also by more violent storms and coastal flooding.

Two scenarios are presented in the study - one for 2055 and the other by 2086. Both these scenarios contemplate significant risks of flooding, the overwhelming of drainage, and landslides. Construction in rural areas will aggravate the risk of fire, while the concentration of buildings in urban areas will contribute to the "islands of urban heat". Between 1987 and 2000, the study observes, the artificial use of land (i.e. building and infrastructure) increased by 41%.

Groizard believes that a rising sea level is not the greatest threat for the Balearics. Prolonged droughts and more frequent and longer heat waves will be. A solution will lie with building modification - "bioclimatic" buildings that are more efficient and rely less on air-conditiiong. He adds, nevertheless, that there will need to be a new flood map which identifies built-up areas at greatest risk and evaluates the possibilities of relocation.