Mediterranean Basin Faces Irreparable Environmental Damage, Says UN Report

No corner of the planet has escaped from the damage inflicted by the rapidly changing climatic patterns. But, some regions have to bear the brunt of climate change more severely than the rest of the world. A United Nations Environment Program Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) report produced by Plan Bleu, a UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centre, concluded that the Mediterranean Basin is facing irreversible environmental damage owing to many factors, including climate change.

Rising inequality, biodiversity loss, the growing impact of climate change and insistent pressure on natural resources could cause irreparable environmental damage in the Mediterranean Basin.

Mediterranean Basin Faces Irreparable Environmental Damage, Says UN Report

Image: Jorge Sierra / WWF-Spain

The Mediterranean Sea is home to up to 18 percent of the earth’s marine species, despite representing less than 1 percent of the world’s ocean surface. The decline of Posidonia Oceanica (an endemic seagrass species known as the “lungs of the Mediterranean”), overfishing, non-indigenous species are some of the symptoms of a degrading environment in the region.

Both marine and coastal ecosystems are under a lot of pressure from the unsustainable pursuit of economic growth. The continuous environmental degradation in the Mediterranean could have severe and lasting consequences for human health and livelihoods in the region.

By shedding light on the mistakes of the past, the report’s findings can guide a green renaissance in the Mediterranean. Embarking on greener development paths now can halt the environmental degradation trends and salvage hard-won achievements in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Said Gaetano Leone, Coordinator of the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention Secretariat.

According to the report, 15 percent of the deaths in the Mediterranean are caused by environmental factors that can be prevented through collective efforts. The region is burned by many damaging factors, such as air pollution, plastic pollution, and overpopulation of non-indigenous species.

In 2016, over 228,000 people died prematurely from exposure to air pollution. The region is one of the world’s most coveted tourism destination and one of its busiest shipping routes. However, it is polluted by an estimated 730 tons of plastic waste every day. Over 1,000 non-indigenous species are present in the region, posing threats to biodiversity. Moreover, the region is warming 20 percent faster than the global average of warming.

The report also provided a set of solutions to tackle this problem, before it’s too late. It can only be hoped that these actions will be able to repair the done damage and will help to prevent further environmental damage.

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