CNA News

Half of Cyprus beaches may be destroyed in 50 years, Dr G. Zittis tells CNA

If current rates of greenhouse gas emissions continue and no action is taken in time, the rise in sea levels is expected to destroy about 50% of Cyprus’ beaches in the next 50 years, George Zittis, Associate Research Scientist at The Cyprus Institute, in the Centre of Excellence for Climate and Atmospheric Research, told CNA, on Monday.

Dr. Zittis pointed out that climate change, unlike other parts of the world, is making Cyprus warmer and drier, with multiple impacts on nature, human health and the economy. He noted that even if we were to stop gas emissions today, the temperature is expected to continue to rise in the next 20-30 years and therefore measures to adapt to the new conditions are necessary.

“Cyprus and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, which is a hot spot of climate change, are mainly affected by increasingly elevated temperatures, especially in the summer season”, he told CNA, noting that in other parts of the world, for example in the northern Europe, this increase is mainly observed in winter.

This increases repercussions as Cyprus is located in a particularly warm region. These repercussions, he added, have to do with energy demand, agricultural production and human health. “We have recently had two deaths from heatstroke”, he noted. In addition, he said that forest fires are also affected by the elevated summer temperatures.

Another characteristic of the region Dr. Zittis noted, is that, along with the increase in temperature, there is a decrease in rainfall. “Although the trends are not as clear-cut as in temperature, we are moving to drier climate averages”, he said, noting the difference to more northerly latitudes, where climate change is contributing to an increase in precipitation.

Asked about the impact of a sea level rise in Cyprus, he said that in Cyprus most of the infrastructure, airports, ports, power plants, are located near the coast. Also, most of the tourist activity is located near the beaches, he added. “We believe they will be affected by a rise of sea levels”, he said.

He added that in a pessimistic scenario, where we continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates and do not take timely action, “sea level rise is expected to destroy about 50% of Cyprus’ beaches”, explaining that the projections are for the next 50 years.

Asked whether the situation is reversible if measures are taken, he said that measures must be in the short term, “that is, in the next decade, to reduce the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions so much so as to limit this warming and sea level rise”.

However, he stressed, “the magnitude of the concentrations is such that even if we completely stop emitting greenhouse gases today, for the next 2-3 decades the temperature will continue to rise.” Therefore, he said, some measures will have to be taken to adapt to these increasingly hotter and drier conditions.

These measures could include a more rational use of water resources, more energy-efficient buildings, air conditioning, crops that are more resilient in warmer and drier conditions, and even a change in our tourism model, “as our summers may be too hot even for tourists and therefore we need to see if there are opportunities in the slightly cooler times of the year”, he said.

Asked whether the measures Cyprus is taking to limit greenhouse gas emissions are sufficient, he said that Cyprus, as an EU member state, must align itself with the EU targets, which he said are quite ambitious. “We are a bit behind, there is room for improvement, for example in electricity generation, these efforts can be stepped up,” he concluded.