January 9, 2009

Cyprus at Risk of Desertification

An expert warned Friday that Cyprus runs the risk of desertification by the end of this century as it feels the brunt of climate change and drought.

Professor Manfred Lange, a geophysicist, said that studies project a rise in summer temperatures on the East Mediterranean Island of between two and four degrees this century, compared to the 1960 and 1990 reference periods.

"I think that there is a very definite potential for dramatically increasing desertification," said Lange, director of the Energy, Environment and Water Research Center at the non-profit Cyprus Institute.

Lange said, Cyprus can expect an extra two months of days with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees Fahrenheit on top of the summer months of June, July and August.

There is likely to be less rainfall and increased evaporation due to higher temperatures.

"Cyprus will in fact become more like Abu Dhabi or other states that we know because there is just not enough water," he said.

Cyprus now uses energy-intensive desalination to meet some of its water requirements, while its population of around one million live with rationing and a permanent hosepipe ban.  Lange said enforcement must be stringent.

"People want water but if you want to avert desertification, we need to let nature have its share," he said, adding that while climate change could be slowed, it could not be reversed.

The Cyprus Institute is looking into the use of concentrated solar power to co-generate electricity and potable water through desalination, technology that could be used elsewhere, according to Lange.

"Cyprus could become somewhat of a showcase for this kind of technology and could develop an industry that would indeed then offer to market these devices to neighboring countries," he said.


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