Dire forecasts of lower rainfall, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts mean Greece faces peril ahead. Athens, Greece – Climate experts say last month’s wildfires that razed 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of Greek forest are only a small sampling of the environmental and economic devastation the country will face due to a warming planet this century. The fires came in the wake of a heatwave, repeating a pattern seen in two other nationwide conflagrations in 2007 and 1987; and the phenomenon is worsening, geophysicist Christos Zerefos told Al Jazeera. “This heatwave was the longest that ever struck our country,” he said. “In 1987 it lasted five days. In 2007 it was six days. And now 11 days. It keeps on increasing.” The heatwave essentially ignited pine straw that sat thick on the floor of suburban woods, carried downhill by a strong storm the previous winter. That pine straw was full of pine resin, which is highly inflammable, said Zerefos. “The heatwave together with the resin formed a bomb that [was] ready to go off.” Zerefos leads a team of experts in assessing the cost of climate change to Greece. Their most recent report, compiled for the Bank of Greece in 2009, put the figure at over $821bn (704 billion euros) by 2100, twice the national debt and almost four times current annual gross domestic product (GDP). That figure does not include the cost of relocating villages and rebuilding harbours due to rising sea levels. An update due to be published early next year will put that cost much higher, Zerefos says. “The sector that will suffer most is agriculture … We’re going to have to replace what we cultivate with more drought-resistant plants. Farmers will have to manage their land more using more intelligent methods. Cultivable land will shrink and be replaced by so-called smart agriculture.” ‘No water’ This has already started happening in the plain of Thessaly, Greece’s breadbasket. “There was a 10 percent drop in irrigated crops this year, meaning 2,500 to 3,000 hectares [6,180 to 7,400 acres], ascribed to lack of water and the cost of water,” said journalist Yiorgos Roustas, who covers agriculture for the Larissa-based newspaper Eleftheria. The problem, he said, is that the Pineios river, which runs through Thessaly, dried up for the first time. Farms that draw water from irrigation reservoirs fed by the river sucked them dry. “These [reservoirs] dried out because the heatwave made it necessary to water cotton and maize three or four times a week rather than two, but also because there was no water,” said Roustas. The result is a substitution of crops, as Zerefos foresaw. “People are moving from cotton, maize, alfalfa to wheat, barley and olives,” said Roustas. Apart from the cost of lost economic activity, there is the cost of compensation from natural disasters such as the summer fires. The government says it will help rebuild razed homes and businesses, undertake terracing work to prevent soil erosion in burned forests followed by reforestation, compensate farmers for lost revenue and equipment, and offer tax breaks. Al Jazeera estimates that these promises alone amount to at least $147m (126 million euros), and that does not include the cost of compensation for lost fruit-bearing trees and farm animals, or the loss of tax revenue. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has also said he will spend $350m (300 million euros) buying more firefighting equipment in the coming years. It would appear that the $821bn bill has already started to come in. Experts predict the cost of climate change to Greece could total more than $821bn by 2100 [File: Thodoris Nikolaou/AP] Disaster foretold The environmental literature for Greece and the Mediterranean makes for grim reading. “Climate is changing in the Mediterranean Basin … faster than global trends,” said the first assessment on the region by MedECC, a group of Mediterranean experts on climate and environmental change, published last September. Whereas average global temperatures have risen 1.1C above those of . . . read the full article here.