Climate Change & Climate Action Economy & Business Eurozone Fiscal and Structural Reform Greece Southern & Southeastern Europe

Issue Brief

April 5, 2022

The rising national security threats from climate change in the Mediterranean region

By Katerina Sokou

Climate change hazards, from rising sea levels to forest fires, are set to asymmetrically impact the Mediterranean’s coastal ecosystems. In addition to increased natural disasters, climate change also will exacerbate the region’s economic vulnerabilities stemming from resource scarcity, heat stress, and impacts on tourism. With increased stress on populations in the region, climate pressures have the potential to indirectly exacerbate violent conflict.

The potential for future threats from climate change necessitates that nations consider not only national climate plans, but strategies to mitigate global pressures on supply chains, food systems, and economic interdependencies to manage cross-border risks. The United Nations Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Action Plan serves as a starting point by assessing these risks. Building on it, the European Union can direct development assistance towards strengthening countries’ abilities to adapt, further strengthened by transatlantic cooperation. In anticipation of the security ramifications of climate change, NATO should set climate adaptation as a priority.

The transition to renewable energy will result in both economic and geopolitical benefits through the creation of jobs and development of advanced technologies. Tourism, which makes up a fifth of Greece’s GDP, is likely to be adversely impacted by higher temperatures and natural disasters. This could generate additional risk for Greece’s financial credibility. The EU should consider this as a threat to the institution as a whole, with Greece and Cyprus the member states most vulnerable to climate change. Fortunately, Greece has a solid foundation from which to build up its climate resiliency, as strategies to this end are part of the Greece 2.0 plan and the country is already one of the top producers of wind and solar energy globally. 

The Mediterranean should not be making these efforts alone as economic and geopolitical stressors cause cross-border instability, a strong motivator for the region and partners to deliberately address climate adaptation in tandem.

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Image: A firefighting plane drops water over a fire near holiday homes in Costa village in the Argolida region, in Southeastern Greece during a developing wild fire, July 20, 2015. Dozens of people were evacuated as firefighters fought the fire, which broke out on Monday afternoon in Panorama in Costa village at a forested area where dozens of summer houses are located, according to local media. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis - GF10000165126