The Mediterranean Sea is increasingly at risk: CO2 has risen by 15% in the last quarter century

Elizabeth Smith

The Mediterranean Sea is increasingly at risk: in the last quarter of a century, CO2 has increased by 15%, methane by 9% and the average temperature by around 0.5°C, along with the frequency and intensity of heat waves.

There is, therefore, no good news. Specifically, surveys show that in the last quarter of a century CO2 has increased from about 365 to about 420 parts per million (+15%), methane from about 1825 to 1985 parts per billion (+9%), while the average temperature has risen by about 0.5°C, along with the frequency and intensity of heat waves.

The Mediterranean Sea is increasingly ill

The Mediterranean Sea is increasingly ill, with water temperatures never so high and with satellite images from the European Copernicus programme showing heat peaks of +5°C above the historical average. And the consequences of this phenomenon can only be devastating for the natural balance and for the inhabitants of the sea. Now comes yet another confirmation.

“Before the industrial revolution, the atmospheric content of CO2, one of the main greenhouse gases produced by human activities that affect the climate, was around 280 parts per million, while in 1992, when we started measuring carbon dioxide on Lampedusa, it was around 350 parts per million,” points out the ENEA Laboratory of Observations and Measurements for the Environment and Climate.

“Today we have recorded 420 parts per million, with a very strong increase over the last 25 years of about 15 per cent and an annual growth rate that has risen from 1.7 ppm/year to about 2.6 ppm/year. This increase, combined with the rising temperatures we are experiencing, is also worrying because of the possible reduction in the absorption function of excess CO2, normally performed by the ocean and vegetation’.

Methane is also among those under special surveillance, considering that “it has a warming capacity 30 to 80 times greater than CO2,” emphasises ENEA researcher Damiano Sferlazzo. “From the pre-industrial era to 1997, the atmospheric concentration of methane has more than doubled from 720 to about 1825 ppb (parts per billion) and has further increased by 8%, over the last 20 years, with a growth rate that from 2010 has become faster reaching +15 ppb/year in 2021 and today 1985 ppb.”

The worrying increase in average sea temperature in the Mediterranean Sea

Generally speaking, without going into too much detail, the Lampedusa observatory also confirmed the increase in the average sea temperature, which has risen by more than 1.5°C over the last 100 years, i.e. much more than the global average, and a greater frequency of phenomena such as intense and long-lasting heatwaves, with sea temperatures reaching 30°C in 2022, which put biodiversity at risk, modify the habitats of various species and mainly affect fishing, aquaculture, weather and evaporation.

“These data show the need to act quickly to implement policies to reduce CO2 emissions but also other anthropogenic greenhouse gases such as methane, consistent with the European objectives of climate neutrality by 2050,” highlights ENEA researchers.

“This is an essential challenge for the future of Europe and the planet, and in particular the Mediterranean, one of the areas most sensitive to climate change where the impacts on the environment can be critical and which is now more than ever at risk.”

Read also: 5 animals recently extinct in the 2020s: the role that humans and climate change played in it

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