Heat waves in Mallorca are becoming more frequent. | M. Ester y Paco

The seventh annual global report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change points out that the Mediterranean is warming faster than the rest of the planet.

A project coordinated by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), this report focuses on Europe and exposes alarming increases in health risks that European countries are already experiencing through increased exposure to extreme weather and climate events - the increased risk of transmission of infectious diseases, diseases related to heat, and deaths from exposure to air pollution.

According to the report, exposure to heat waves between the first and second decades of the 21st century increased by 57% on average, with increases in some areas of more than 250%. Consequently, heat-related mortality has increased by 15 annual deaths per million inhabitants per decade between 2000-2020.

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Another big issue is water: 55% of European regions have faced extreme or exceptional summer droughts between 2011 and 2020. Droughts, floods and other extreme events caused record losses in 2021. These amounted to almost 48 billion euros, states the report. The director of the BSC earth sciences department, Francisco Doblas-Reyes, says that the problem is especially delicate in the Mediterranean, which "is warming up faster than the rest of the world and is the hotspot of climate change".

Projections for temperatures in Spain and in the Mediterranean until 2100 indicate that they could rise between two degrees and, in the worst case, up to eight degrees. These figures are "especially worrying due to the pressure on water in this area".

Another factor is that heat waves and high temperatures will be more and more frequent. This will impact the health of people in Spain, the European country with the highest life expectancy at the moment but with a very ageing population.

Doblas-Reyes adds that the Mediterranean is one of the areas of the planet that "will suffer the most" from the effects of climate change that are already visible, with one of the warmest Octobers in history. The rise in temperatures is facilitating the transmission of infectious diseases that in the last century had little presence in Europe. The climate suitability for dengue transmission increased by 30% in the last decade compared to the 1950s and the risk of West Nile virus outbreaks grew by 149% in southern Europe between 1986 and 2020 when compared with the period 1951-1986.