Tag Archive for: climate

In 25 years Portugal invested three times more in roads than in railways

European governments have systematically neglected their railways and starved them of funding while pouring money into expanding their road network, according to research from the German think tank Wuppertal Institute and T3 Transportation in collaboration with Greenpeace.

In 25 years (1994-2018), the lengths of motorways in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK grew 66%, while railways shrank 6,5%. For every euro the governments spent on building railways, they spent 1.6 euros on building roads. At the same time, European governments shut down more than 2,500 train stations since the mid-90s and 13,000 km of regional railway lines.

In the four years that followed (2018-2021), only seven countries invested more in rail than roads – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the UK – while the rest continued spending more on roads than rail.

Between 1994 and 2018, Portugal increased its road network by 2,378 kilometers (over 300%), while the railway network decreased by nearly 20%. In the same period, Portugal invested three times more in roads than in railways (23 billion euros vs 7.5 billion).

As to the length of motorways in Europe, Portugal showed the third highest growth, after Spain and France. With regard to the reduction of the railway network, Portugal had the third largest, after Latvia and Poland. During that period of time, the number of passengers on Portuguese trains has fallen and eight lines (450 km) have been deactivated, affecting approximately 100 thousand people.

Nowadays the only direct train between Portugal and Spain is between Porto and Vigo, whereas a high-speed rail connection between Lisbon and Madrid is delayed for years.  

In the post-Covid 19 period (2022 –2023) emissions from road transport in Portugal have increased by 6% compared to the pre-pandemic period (2018 –2019) states the environmental association ZERO, at the same time warning of the threat to climate targets. ‘Emissions associated with the consumption of diesel and petrol in road transport are continuously increasing despite the fact that fuel prices are historically high.’

The association attributes this increase to several causes, among them the fact that former public transport users switched during the pandemic to private cars to reduce the risk of contagion of Covid-19 and the departure of thousands of residents (around 70,000 between 2019 and 2022) from Porto and Lisbon due to sharp rise in housing prices, increasing commuting by car. Moreover, there has been an increase in the number of tourists visiting rural areas by car, further away from Lisbon, Porto, and Farro airports.

Simultaneously, the number of deadly road accidents increased by 10% this year compared to the same period last year. The biggest increases were in accidents involving motorcycles and bicycles.

The environmental NGO criticizes the recommendations announced by the government in the 2024 State Budget to include discounts on toll roads, widening of congested roads, and reduction in fuel prices.
‘These measures keep the economy and society hostage to fossil fuels and are contrary to the National Energy and Climate Plan for 2030 and the new European Renewable Energy Directive.’

Enjoy the week                     Aproveite a semana      (pic Público/Sapo)


Contrary to what was hoped for, global CO2 emissions actually increased in 2018.

Every major city in Europe is warmer in the 21st century than it was in the 20th. In December 2015, 195 member states of the UN agreed in the Paris Agreement to limit the temperature increase to 1.5⁰C above preindustrial levels. For several cities on the Iberian Peninsula, this 1.5⁰C threshold has already been reached.

In Lisbon – situated on the Atlantic Coast – the average temperature increased 0.5⁰C and the number of hot days (24-hour average temperature above 24⁰C) nearly doubled since 2000.

Even limited temperature increases have severe consequences. A hotter atmosphere can absorb more water leading to severe floods between longer and dryer periods. Heatwaves lead to excess mortality and mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever has been creeping North with epidemics in Portugal in 2012. Recent research shows that when the daily temperature increases above 22⁰C, cognitive abilities of schoolchildren decrease.

The expectations are that the Mediterranean will heat up more than the global mean, resulting in a substantial decrease in the production of hydroelectric energy of which Portugal is more dependent than the Northern European countries.

Although Portugal had in 2018 the highest reduction in CO2 emissions of all EU member states, CO2 emissions of its national airline TAP  skyrocketed in the last 2 years. This was mainly the result of an explosive 30% increase in the number of passengers.
Booming tourism has become the main money-spinner generating annually more than € 14 billion in government revenues but the downside is pollution.

Portela airport – with more than 650 flight movements per day – knows few restrictions for night flights with planes coming in just a hundred meters above rooftops.

Ultrathin particles are 20 times higher close to the airport than elsewhere in the city. Measurements of inner-city noise levels taken by the environmental group ZERO showed noise pollution for more than 400.000 people with levels above the legal limits of more than 16 dB at night and 10 dB during daytime.

About 300 giant cruise ships – with at least 600.000 passengers to embark – are every year docking at a brand-new (€ 50 million) terminal. Even though only 2 years old there is no portside electricity for the moored vessels.

Massive amounts of particulate matter and sulphur dioxide (SO2) have made Lisbon’s port the sixth most polluting in Europe.
SO2 emissions from those ships are 85% higher than those emitted by Portugal’s entire car traffic over a year.

Climate change can only be achieved by keeping hydrocarbons in the ground and capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Neither option has produced any result so far.

In order to prevent global warming catastrophe policymakers have to get serious about a carbon tax set high enough to price oil, coal and gas out of the market says William Nordhaus, one of the winners of last year’s Nobel Prize for economics.

Bom fim de semana          Enjoy your weekend          (pic Público/Observador)


Trees are sanctuaries. Those who know how to talk and to listen to them will find the truth
Hermann Hesse

Portugal’s oldest tree – 3350 years old – can be admired in Mouriscas, the municipality of Abrantes. As one of the oldest trees in the world, it has provided shadow to innumerous people, from Celts to Romans and from Visigoths to Arabs. This monumental olive tree is not only a contemporary from pharaoh Ramses II and Moses (1250 years B.C) but also from you and me.

Olive trees usually become hollow from the age of 150 years. How can one then determine their age, when the oldest part of the tree has disappeared and dating methods like counting of annual rings or carbon 14 analysis are doomed to fail?
A team of the University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD) recently discovered a reliable mathematic model for determining the age of hollow trees. With this method already hundreds of olive trees older than 2000 years could be identified all over the country.

Another recent breakthrough in the green world has been the unraveling by Portuguese scientists of the genetic code of their national tree, the cork oak (Quercus Suber – the name Quercus comes from the Latin word for oaks). Its DNA contains 953 million base pairs. More than rice but three times less than the human genome.

Cork trees are important, both for the local economy – exports amounted to almost 1 billion euros in 2017 – and the fight against global warming.

It was on the 21st of March last year that the 234- year- old cork oak from Águas de Moura, a small village in the district of Palmela, was declared ‘European Tree of the Year 2018.’ This tree is also the world’s biggest cork oak – according to the Guinness Book of Records – with an altitude of 16 meters, a diameter of 4.2 meters and a 30 meters wide treetop.

The Portuguese entry for this year’s event – since 2011 organized by the Environmental Partnership Organisation (EPA) in which 15 European countries participate – is once again an oak. This time the 150- year-old holm oak (Quercus Rotundifolia) from the council of Mertola in the Alentejo province.

Whether Portugal will prolong its title will only be known on March 19, when the outcome will be announced at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Bom fim de semana                     Enjoy the weekend           (pic Publico/Sapo)