Kissing the frog
The image of a frog in a pot of water being brought slowly to the boil has become symbolic of what is happening to the world. Stretching its little green arm to find the knob and turn down the heat is what the frog must do next.
It may take more than a kiss from a princess to turn climate projections around - or slow them down in time for humanity to adapt. It is becoming obvious that the challenge of climate change has to be taken seriously and sacrifices have to be made. Director of the Centre for European Studies, Tomi Huhtanen, made this point at an AZAD seminar last week.
The Academy for the Development of a Democratic Environment also hosted the EU Commission's policy adviser for climate change and a transport and ecology expert from the UN observatory for the Mediterranean. A Mediterranean Action Plan report out this month notes that the impact of climate change is already noticeable in the Mediterranean and is producing observable effects on human activity.
Climate change is turning out to be the biggest challenge that has ever faced humanity. A clear mind and a feeling of responsibility is needed. Seen as a major driver of population displacement, it adds to problems of illegal immigration already being faced.
Analysts trying to put a figure on it estimate a possible 200 million displaced people worldwide by 2050 if nothing is done.
As Pacific islanders from submerged lands are being granted work permits within Europe, the EU is becoming more concerned about climate-induced migration. Low-lying western coasts of Africa, already buffeted by storm surges, are susceptible to erosion exposing the coast to increasing effects of extreme weather events.
Some EU member states are focusing on adaptation projects in vulnerable countries as a preventative measure against an influx of refugees.
African economies, so reliant on agriculture and eco-systems, are expected to come under severe pressure from the effects of climate change. When land turns to desert, the soil quality breaks down, people produce less food and poverty sets in. This leads to social tensions forcing migration to urban areas.
The ethnic map is redrawn bringing conflicting groups into proximity with easy access to arms and outbreaks of violence. Many flock to coastal cities where fast expanding development is chaotic. An EU Commission paper on security identifies climate change as a 'threat-multiplier' causing tension and instabilitie.
The fertile Nile delta is home to a third of Egypt's population and supplier of half the country's crops. Rising seas causing contamination of underground waters that irrigate the delta would lead to the collapse of essential crops and cause hunger to millions as food prices soar.
Between apocalyptic and more optimistic weather scenarios, Europe is aiming for concerted action needed to contain temperature rise to 2°C by 2050. If we go beyond this the effects of climate change may become unmanageable.
Climate specialists have reached consensus that even if this target for the European continent is met the average temperature increase for the Mediterranean region is likely to be above the two degree mark.
One of the industries most affected will be tourism. If heat-waves and summer temperatures increase, exacerbating problems with water resources, the Mediterranean could end up becoming less attractive than more northern destinations.
Water is at the heart of the main expected impacts of climate change on the natural environment in the Mediterranean. The water issue, already central to sustainable development concerns in the region, because it is so scarce, will be a key factor through which the effects of climate change on human activity are expected to spread.
The coastal zone of this region runs across 22 countries, including 162 islands over 10 square kilometers and one million hectares of wetland areas. Intervention strategies are being studied to preserve the Ebro Delta on the Spanish coast.
Geographically closer to Africa than to Europe, will the Maltese become climate-induced refugees themselves one day? The aim is to keep Malta a habitable place although European directives may not apply so well here when treated waste water is thrown back into the sea instead of used as a resource.
The leading view is that the world does not need to choose between halting climate change and promoting economic development as business opportunities for low carbon, low energy technologies, goods and services present themselves.
Instead of fighting the symptoms we are encouraged to address policy with realistic solutions and achievable targets. While Europe's potential to reduce carbon emissions is high it appears that the most success could be had through energy efficiency and energy-saving measures.