The Mediterranean will be one of the regions of the world that will suffer most from climate change as rising temperatures and water shortages cripple agriculture and tourism, a seminar in Athens heard yesterday.

If warnings about the environmental and health repercussions of global warming have failed to convince governments to take action, threats of a serious blow to key industries may be taken more seriously, experts told a seminar on the economic impact of climate change organized by the British Embassy in association with Kathimerini and Skai.

"The cost of failing to act is much higher than the cost of action," according to Dimitris Zenghelis, one of the authors of last year's Stern Review on the economics of climate change. Investing 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050 could avert destruction worth up to 20 percent of GDP, he added.

Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable economic sectors. According to Ana Iglesias of the University of Madrid: "Mediterranean agriculture will be hard hit due to desertification, a reduction in rainfall and longer periods of drought." Iglesias, who predicted protracted disputes among authorities regarding how dwindling water resources should be used, called for an assessment of the "region's capabilities for managing resources."

Tourism in the Mediterranean will also be affected by rising temperatures and water shortages. "Major tourist destinations are under increasing pressure which is exhausting natural resources," said Allen Perry of the University of Swansea. Perry forecast that environmental changes will alter tourism trends, with northern European destinations attracting more summer tourists and Mediterranean countries drawing more visitors in cooler months.

As for Greece's efforts to curb global warming, Zenghelis said it "always seems to wait for other states to act before taking any measures." But he said it was encouraging that Greek scientists were united on curbing carbon dioxide emissions, which is not the case in all European countries.