Financial TimesFinancial Times

In 50 years, will anyone still live in central Spain?

By Simon Kuper

04 Aug 2022 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The death of a street sweeper in Madrid during the heatwave left Europeans in a state of shock. Read this article to discover why the author thinks central Spain will not be liveable in the future.

How climate change threatens the world’s most liveable countryI’ve just spent a year based in Madrid, trying to understand Spain. I have travelled from Valencia to Cádiz, often on high-speed trains, pursuing a kind of glorious seafood-fuelled study mission. My preliminary conclusion: this is the world’s most liveable country, albeit even more for privileged foreigners than for the average Spaniard. But climate change could be particularly devastating here.

You’d think climate would be a hot dry country’s top priority, but in fact Spaniards spend more time arguing about national unity. Spain’s great modern trauma was Catalonia’s illegal referendum on independence in 2017. The federal government sent in baton-wielding police, and nine separatist organisers of the referendum were jailed for up to 13 years. In response, flags were hung from balconies nationwide as people expressed their visions of Spain. You can often read a neighbourhood’s political character just walking down the street: national flags in bourgeois Madrid neighbourhoods, various versions of Catalan flags in Barcelona, and elsewhere, increasingly, flags of other regions. Growing anxiety over national unity propelled the far-right nationalist party Vox into parliament in 2019.

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