Warming-driven desertification is spreading. Australia has gotten the most attention, but Spain is also turning into a desert. As Time reported:

Spain is in the grip of its worst drought in a century as a result of climate change — this year’s total rainfall, for example, has been 40 percent lower than average for the equivalent period, and the country’s reservoirs are, on average, only 30 percent full. The reservoirs serving Barcelona are only 20 percent full, and without significant rainfall, supplies of drinking water will likely run dry by October.


The trend is a dire one. The NYT reports today:

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Swaths of southeast Spain are steadily turning into desert, a process spurred on by global warming and poorly planned development …

The Spanish Environment Ministry estimates that one-third of the county is at risk of turning into desert from a combination of climate change and poor land use.

And this is just after a global warming of 0.8 degrees C. Imagine what will happen to Spain, Australia, the Southwest, and the entire planet when we warm another 3 degrees C to 5 degrees C.

Conflict has already begun inside of Spain for water:

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Ground Zero of Spain’s new water wars, however, may be Barcelona’s planned diversion of the Ebro, Spain’s largest river, which is expected to be completed in October. The Socialist government of recently reelected Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero plans to build a pipeline alongside the highway to transport diverted Ebro water north to Barcelona. But when he was first elected in 2004, Zapatero’s government overturned a similar plan, hatched by the conservative Popular Party, to divert water south to Valencia. The fact that Barcelona’s government is Socialist, while Valencia is ruled by the PP, has fed suspicions of political favoritism. “The government has humiliated us,” said Francisco Camps, president of the Valencia region and a PP member.

Murcia, another conservative-governed coastal region that would have benefited from the original diversion, is also outraged. “Barcelona is a major metropolis, and their economy depends on a steady water supply, so it is completely logical and necessary that they have this diversion,” says Antonio Cerda, city councilman for agriculture and water. “But Murcia is one of the most important agricultural regions of Spain. We need the water diversion for our economy. It’s only fair that we have one too.”

So heated is the debate that the Zapatero government has refused to even describe the Ebro pipeline to Barcelona as a diversion, calling it instead a “temporary solution,” or, if pressed, a “mini-diversion.”

Again, imagine what will happen when we warm 4-6 times as much of this century as we did last century. The time to act is yesterday!

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.