Environmental experts meeting in Rome say climate change is affecting Europe faster than the rest of the world and rising temperatures could transform the Mediterranean into a salty and stagnant sea.  In addition they say Italy's climate is heating up four times faster than the rest of the world.  Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA that the warnings were launched at a two-day conference on climate change that closed Thursday at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome.

Scientists and experts say Europe and the Mediterranean are a climate-change hotspot, where change can be seen happening.  These are areas, they say, that are warming up faster than the rest of the world.

It is unclear why the region is more sensitive to climate change, but the experts are convinced that in the next decades, temperature increases hitting Europe during the summer months could be 40 to 50 percent higher than elsewhere.

Experts said changes are also being felt at sea level, with a surface temperature increase of six-tenths of a degree Celsius.  They added that these temperature rises could wipe out "up to 50 percent of the species in the region.

Addressing the climate conference at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italian Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio also waned that Italy's climate is heating up four times faster than in the rest of the world.

The average temperature in Italy has increased by 1.4 degrees Celcius in the past 50 years.

The minister said Italy is more exposed than other countries to the risks of environmental damage and drought.

He said preliminary data on the Adriatic Sea, on drought, desertification and on the risk of floods are worrying.  He said we need to have the ability to prevent rather than cure the damage afterwards.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said a joint effort by nations is required to deal with the problem of climate change.

Napolitano said in order to influence agreements and coordinated efforts that must be implemented at a world level, it is essential for Europe to speak with one voice.  Environment and energy policies announced at the Council of Europe last spring must move ahead.