A new study by Spanish scientists warns that if current climate change trends continue, sea levels in the Mediterranean could rise by up to half a metre in less than 50 years' time, with catastrophic consequences for the coastline and particularly islands such as Malta.

The study, published a few days ago by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, argues that even a smaller increase would have very serious consequences, whereas a rise of half a metre would be "catastrophic" for coastal areas.

"The Mediterranean Sea level has been increasing between 2.5 and 10 millimetres per year since the 1990s and, if the trend continues, the level of the sea will rise between 12.5 centimetres and a half a metre in the next 50 years," the study says.

Entitled Climate Change In The Spanish Mediterranean, the study focuses on the evolution of the temperature, level and salinity of the Mediterranean between 1948 and today and was conducted over two distinctive periods: From 1948 to the mid-1970s, and from the mid-1970s until today.

According to the Spanish scientists, during the first period, declines in both air temperature and the superficial layer of the sea were observed, whereas since the mid-1970s there have tended to be significant increases in temperature, with the rate of increase growing in recent years.

The scientists underlined that even though it is too soon to ascertain whether this trend is going to continue in the coming decades, the growing rate of increase in sea levels has been a global phenomenon since the 1990s.

The EU has been calling for immediate efforts by member states to introduce measures to control climate change.

On Wednesday the European Commission published binding legal targets for all its 27 member states aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent in the next 12 years.

Carbon dioxide emissions are considered to be the main reason for the rise in global temperature.

Although still considered to be a developing country, Malta's increase in greenhouse gas emissions was capped at five per cent on its 2005 levels until 2020.

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