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"Climate change" is the term used to refer to changes in the weather over time; usually referring to average changes in the atmosphere and state of the Oceans over a period of a few decades.
The changes may be caused by natural Earth processes (volcano eruptions, orbital variations) and external forces (level of solar activity). More recently, climate change is also linked to human activities (carbon dioxide emissions due to use of fossil fuels for energy).

Author / translator FRANCESCA CONTI

"Climate change" is the term used to refer to changes in the weather over time; usually referring to average changes in the atmosphere and state of the Oceans over a period of a few decades.

The changes may be caused by natural Earth processes (volcano eruptions, orbital variations) and external forces (level of solar activity). More recently, climate change is also linked to human activities (carbon dioxide emissions due to use of fossil fuels for energy).

Today, “climate change” usually refers to recent changes, whose main effect is the increase in average surface temperature, the so-called “global warming”. Recent studies show that the current increase in greenhouse gases is the primary cause of global warming.

According to scientific research, the warming produced – as greenhouse gases trap heat – plays a key role in regulating Earth's temperature. However, since the Industrial Revolution and its increased use of fossil fuels, the percentage of greenhouse gases and especially carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen to their highest level in the last 800.000 years. The impacts of climate change on the Mediterranean environment have been researched thanks to a European project called CIRCE (www.circeproject.eu).

Created 23 May 2011
Last edited 26 April 2018
Topics Climate
Original Italian

Policy positions

Policy position 1

Adapt to climate change. Don't try to prevent it. We've adapted to changes in the climate before, and adapting might be less expensive than preventative measures.

Policy position 2

Increase investment in climate science. Governments should immediately support increased research on the science of climate change to improve the predictions.

Policy position 3

Offer economic incentives. Governments should offer financial subsidies and tax reductions to encourage cleaner technologies and energy efficiency and reduce deforestation.

Policy position 4

Negotiate international agreements to protect the climate, taking effect by 2015. Addressing climate change will require massive changes to the way we use energy and natural resources. Timely international cooperation is critical. una pronta e puntuale cooperazione internazionale!

Story cards

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I am an Algerian fisherman and I have a fleet of vessels. For some years now, we have been pulling in emptier nets, there is less and less fish and when we do go out to sea our nets are more and more frequently filled with jelly fish . I have heard on TV that climate changes are causing an increase in sea surface temperature and that this alters the balance between the species. The increase in Jelly fish may have been facilitated by the decrease in those species that feed on them. Maybe so, I only know that the sea no longer has the colour nor the taste it used to have. Life at sea is hard and we are obliged to go further out every time in order to catch fish.

Ahmed Safir
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I am an Italian farmer. I live in Tuscany and produce wine that I export all over the world. I grew up in the midst of vineyards, olive groves and fields of wheat. I have installed an automatic irrigation system for my vineyard, but my brother who has always grown wheat is now having difficulties. Grain depends on rainfall, if it doesn’t rain or rains too much the crops fail. Water is vital for us, but what with climate changes it could become increasingly scarce in our areas. Government should intervene with targeted policies if we want to safeguard our landscape and cultural heritage.

Saverio Isolani
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I am president of a well-known environmental organisation in Greece. I live in Athens and here the impacts of climate change are perceived through heat waves which become progressively more frequent in summer or sudden downpours. However, I think that one of the worst effects of global warming is the desertification of large areas of the planet and the increasingly fewer sources of drinking water. For this reason it is the moral duty of all citizens to limit wasteful use of water. At home we save water in small ways, like for example having two flush volumes; we can also save water by washing less frequently; there are some people who have a bath every day and waste more than 150 litres. I brush my teeth with the basin half full; with this same amount of water a Palestinian boy will wash, quench his thirst and water the fields. I think that by being careful every day in small ways each one of us can help reduce water consumption.

Sofia Xanthoudaki
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I am a politician and live in Beirut, Lebanon’s largest urban area. My city has about 2 million inhabitants who represent almost half of the country’s population. One of our most serious problems is water shortage. The population is increasing in response to tourism and industrial development, but water is available intermittently in many areas. During periods of scarcity, water is extracted from private wells or bought from unauthorized sellers, increasing the risk of microbial contamination. It is necessary to introduce rigorous environmental norms, but such measures require stringent choices with positive effects over the long term. My mandate ends in a year and I’m not sure that my electorate would reward choices that don’t show immediate results.

Mohamed El Fadel
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I am a writer and have just recently published a book titled “The Lies of Environmentalists ( ecological false alarms)”. Deforestation, ozone hole, atmospheric pollution, greenhouse effect, water crisis, depletion of resources, population explosion… the SOS launched by ecological organisations prophesying we are nearing the end of our planet. My book shows, through unquestionable documentation, that the sole purpose of these organisations is to raise funds for populist, ideological and political operations that have nothing to do with safeguarding Earth.

John Fuel
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I am an Egyptian climatologist. I live in Alexandria and study climate trends. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has on average increased by 33% since 1860 and is still increasing at the rate of 1% every year. If current trends do not change this concentration will get higher and higher. But even then, we will not be able to prevent climate changes already triggered off from proceeding further and becoming manifest in years to come. All countries should adopt policies, actions and measures to minimize the negative consequences ahead. Some countries, including Great Britain, Holland, Belgium and Finland are already doing this. The problem remains for poorer countries that today are the most impacted by climate change.

Hesham El Hattab
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I am an entrepreneur and I live on the Catalan Ebro Delta, a magnificent area from the environmental point of view. Today my country is in danger, tidal waves/heavy sea storms are becoming more frequent and the beaches are eroding away a little bit every year . This is the result of climate change.
For this reason five years ago I chose to invest in the production of clean energy. At least I can make a real contribution by trying to provide energy without using fossil fuels. Currently I’m running a solar panel plant and I’ve been considering expanding my business in order to invest even in wind energy.

Consuelo Aranda
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We all know how difficult it is to convince our children to eat fruit. I discovered that my daughter loves peaches, but in winter they have to be imported from South Africa. Of course it’s a good thing for my daughter to eat peaches in winter, but I have my doubts if I think of the environmental damages caused by greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by air transport of frozen goods. Also because I often ask myself: what will her future be like, what kind of planet are we leaving our children?

Samira Pai

INFO CARDSISSUE CARDS

We have no right to do this

We do not have the right to degrade the planet for future generations. Nor do we have the right to cause the
extinction of other species. Do you agree?

Eco-aggression?

The US’s 2004 CO2 emissions were greater than the CO2 of South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East combined. Developing countries are the first to
experience rising sea levels and violent weather patterns. Is this eco-aggression?

Learning from our mistakes

Many developing countries have vast unused resources of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.
Having taken full advantage of our own coal resources, can we tell them not to use theirs?

The possibility of catastrophe

Even if scientists do not completely understand how the atmosphere affects temperature, does the scale of possible damage force us to take action?
Or should we wait and see?

The cost of food habits

The CO2 emissions created by a meal of beef and imported
vegetables is 8 times greater than a vegetarian meal made from locally produced ingredients. How can you change your food habits to reduce emissions?

What will we leave for our children?

Just as smoking now can cause cancer later in life, what we do now to the planet will affect future
generations. Do we have a responsibility to future
generations? Or should we expect them to take care of themselves?

Scared into apathy

‘I ignore what I see in the media about climate change. I become scared and overwhelmed with the contrasting opinions, and believe the effects of climate change will not be felt for decades so it is not my problem.’
Do you think this is a common feeling?

Sustainable living

There are many simple ways to adopt a sustainable lifestyle through building practices and energy use.
Why aren’t more people trying to change their personal impact on the planet?

I am an island

‘I am an island. How I live has no current or future effect on other people, animals, plants, or the planet.
The earth and the plants and animals on it are ours to use as we wish.’ Do you think this is a common opinion?

Think of the children

‘It’s for the children. I want my grandchildren’s children to enjoy the beauty of the planet and to feel
secure and safe in its familiar weather patterns, crops and water supply—just as I have done.’
Should my children’s needs mean more than my own?

Maybe we’re better off

Warming can lead to savings on the costs of heating fuel in Northern regions, bigger crop yields in Canada, and better cod fishing in Greenland.
Could the gains of warming outweigh the losses?

Hidden benefits?

There could be some positive economic impacts for agriculture, forestry and tourism in some regions
of the world. However the negative impacts on
Africa, Asia and South America could lead to food and water shortages, flooding and species extinctions.

The power of technology

Tony Blair said:‘If we harness new technology, the
evidence is mounting that we can achieve a target of 60% reduction in emissions—and at a reasonable
cost.’Do you agree with him, or is this just
wishful thinking?

Corporate tax incentives

Some large companies have found a way to profit from saving energy. For example, DuPont has saved $2
billion in energy costs since 1990. Should we give extra tax incentives to companies who behave this way?

Require more energy from renewable technologies

Governments could require that more of their countries energy comes from renewable sources. India has a target
of 10% renewable energy by 2010 and Germany’s target is 12% by 2010.

Setting a good example

If all government buildings were required to be five star rated energy efficient buildings the savings in energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions would be enormous.

Require more energy efficient vehicles

Governments around the world should require better fuel efficiency in new cars because transportation accounts for almost 1/3 of CO2 emissions.

We have bigger issues

Poverty, terrorism, rising crime and other issues are more important than climate change.

Deal with our oil addiction

While we will continue to use fossil fuels for years to come we should not increase our drilling and oil
consumption to meet our energy needs. The more fuels we burn, the more we bring about climate change.
We need to invest in cleaner energy technologies.

Changing lives

The ultimate hope is that a meaningful solution to the climate change crisis could potentially be the
beginning of a much larger transformation of our social and economic lives. Do you think people want this
transformation?

When there’s a will…

Dire predictions notwithstanding, we can still act to ensure a livable world. It is crucial that we know this: we can meet our needs without destroying the Earth, our life support system, if we have the will to do so.’

Human impact

We are a fundamental part of the planet. Even the water we drink has cycled through rivers, seas, clouds,
rain, animals, plants and humans.
What we do to the planet we do to ourselves.

Concerns of extinction

Extinction is absolute and final; it cannot be remedied or reversed. So should we worry about the extinction
of all creatures, including small worms and snails?
Or is human extinction our biggest concern?

The power of green—money or the environment?

There is always large focus on money and economic growth.
Do you think there has to be an economic impact to climate change before political interest is raised?

Summers get warmer and warmer and winters a little less cold

The number of very hot days and heat waves in summer are on the increase over most of the Mediterranean and surrounding regions, while very cold days are decreasing.

Rising sea levels

Estimates show that the level of the Mediterranean has risen by about 15 cm since the beginning of the nineteenth century. The data of the last 20 years indicate a rise in temperature and salinity of sea water.

Rainfall intensity will increase

In concurrence with climate forecasts, rainfall intensity will tend to increase in all seasons in most of the Mediterranean region. In future there could be further decreases in summer rainfalls.

Mediterranean increasingly vulnerable to water shortage

The Mediterranean gathers 7.3% of the world population, but it has access to only 3% of the water resources present on the planet. Therefore the entire area is vulnerable to water scarcity and irregular availability of this resource.

Water crisis challenge

According to experts the Mediterranean could be transiting toward an increasingly drier climate. Correct management of water resources will, therefore, be one of the greatest challenges to face in the 21st century.

Ecosystems provide precious services

Following the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA 2005) such expressions as “ecosystem services” have come in use to describe the benefits gained from natural or artificial ecosystems and their influence on human beings. These include: food, water, timber and fibre, climate regulation, recreational, etc. Many of these services are generally not converted into money, but they are enormously important for our economy.

Concrete, effective and immediate policies

In the past 50 years human activities have radically altered ecosystems often causing environmental degradation. Development will only be possible if viewed in terms of sustainability. This is the MEA 2005 message.

Threats to Mediterranean ecosystems

According to researchers of the CIRCE project, Mediterranean ecosystem services are particularly sensitive to certain conditions like: exceptionally hot, dry summers and mild winters; wind storms and torrential rains; drying up of the soil leading to desertification.

Increased fire risks

Fires are increasingly more frequent and cause stress to the vegetation. In some areas that historically were not subject to fire risks, the vegetation has not adopted strategies to deal with this type of disturbance.

Climate change and GDP

Changes in climate will affect the economy of all the Mediterranean countries, but not to the same extent, in fact, the poorer regions are at greater risk.

Tourism sector at greater risk

The most obvious economic impacts will be borne by tourism, especially in coastal areas due to rising sea levels.

The south will feel the effects more

Indicators of economic and social capability for the development of adaptation strategies show a higher exposure of countries in the more southern shores of the Mediterranean. The ability to adapt is greater in northern countries, where there are more resources and means.

Changes in climate are not the only pressure for change

The reduction of inequality, land use planning, environmental management are all important forces toward long term change in the Mediterranean.

Deadly heat waves and mild winters

The exceptionally hot summer of 2003 that swept over most of Europe caused the death of 70.000 people. On the other hand, milder winters mean fewer deaths due to cold weather.

Rising temperatures contribute to malnutrition and new diseases

Climate change affects our health as well. In those areas where populations are directly dependent on crops and livestock, malnutrition will increase with the crisis in these sectors: At the same time the increase in temperature helps to spread infectious diseases.

New opportunities for energy markets

Investing in renewable energies like solar or wind energy can be a winning solution for the Mediterranean region. It would be beneficial for Europe to expand the market for renewable and clean energy in North Africa.

Changes in the flow of tourists

Results from the CIRCE project indicate that the effect of having milder temperatures in northern Europe could discourage international tourism flows from north to south and, at the same time, enhance the flow within the northern countries. With a negative impact on tourism in the Mediterranean.

Is there a connection between fossil fuels and carbon dioxide?

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is directly influenced by human activity. The use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, petrol and diesel) increases the level of carbon dioxide in the air. Approximately 81% of world energy comes from fossil fuels.

Does deforestation affect carbon dioxide levels?

Deforestation releases carbon held in the trees and also does not allow carbon to be removed from the atmosphere. Every day all over the world, we lose on average a forest area equivalent to 45.000 football fields!

Record temperatures

In 146 years of global temperature measurements of the Earth (land, air and sea), results indicate that 20, out of the 21 highest temperatures, have been registered in the last 25 years. The hottest year was 2005. According to climate forecasts Earth’s global temperature could increase over the next 100 years to a value between 1.4 and 5.8 °C.

Carbon cost of a plane

Aviation is responsible for an estimated 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Some airlines offset carbon emissions by investing in projects that save energy, such as investing in technology which allows industry to be more efficient and increasing the generation of
renewable energy.

Lifestyle choices can have a big impact

Individuals can substantially reduce their carbon output by their own choices. Adjusting their home
thermostat to reduce energy used for heating and air conditioning as well as passive solar heating and cooling can have a large effect on your household’s carbon output.

Coal burning provides more than half of electricity in the US

Power plants that use coal to generate electricity are the single largest source of CO2, contributing 1/3 of the total US output of CO2.

What is "carbon offsetting"?

After taking action to reduce a business or household’s carbon output, the remaining carbon output can be mitigated by investments or actions that absorb or reduce carbon. Some examples of these “carbon offsets” are planting trees, paying for wind energy, and contributing to organizations providing alternative or
renewable energy sources.

Climate change is already affecting many species

Dr. Terry Root analyzed numerous research papers on effects of global warming on plants and animals. She
found that of 1500 species, 1200 already exhibited changes consistent with a global warming effect.
Two species, the red squirrel and the fruit fly, have shown genetic changes from global warming.

Climate destabilization as a result of warming

"Global warming is a destabilizing factor that will make abrupt climate change more probable." Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institute. The ocean circulation system that carries heat through out the planet could be disrupted causing some regions to become more frigid as
other regions experience warmer temperatures.

Polar Bears headed for extinction?

Polar Bears hunt for seals near the edge of the ice shelf in the Arctic. As the ice shelf has diminished and
portions have broken off, polar bears have become stranded hundreds of miles from the main ice shelf.
The average weight of polar bears has declined by 25% in the last two decades and many have died from
starvation.

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