Climate change impacting all regions in Europe

European societies must adapt to the effects of climate change or risk devastating damage costs caused by extreme weather events, according to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The report claims that climate change is affecting all regions in Europe, causing a wide range of impacts on society and the environment.

Extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods and droughts have caused rising damage costs across Europe in recent years.

The EEA said: “While more evidence is needed to discern the part played by climate change in this trend, growing human activity in hazard-prone areas has been a key factor.

“Future climate change is expected to add to this vulnerability, as extreme weather events are expected to become more intense and frequent,” it added.

Some regions will be less able to adapt to climate change than others, in part due to economic disparities across Europe, the report says. The effects of climate change could deepen these inequalities.

EEA executive director, Jacqueline McGlade, said: “Climate change is a reality around the world, and the extent and speed of change is becoming ever more evident. This means that every part of the economy, including households, needs to adapt as well as reduce emissions.”

The report found that the last decade (2002-2011) was the warmest on record in Europe, with European land temperature 1.3° C warmer than the pre-industrial average.

Various model projections show that Europe could be 2.5-4° C warmer in the later part of the 21st Century, compared to the 1961-1990 average.

In addition, it found that as temperatures rise, demand for heating has fallen, which has therefore saved energy. However, the EEA said this must be balanced against higher energy demands for cooling during hotter summers.

A number of reports have been published over the past few months expressing the need to improve plans to limit global warming.

Earlier today, the UN released a report which stressed that action must be taken before 2020 if the planet is to meet its target of limiting global warming to two degrees.

The Emissions Gap Report, released today, coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Climate Foundation, shows that greenhouse gas emissions levels are now around 14% above where they need to be in 2020.

Echoing the EEA and UN, last week, the World Bank claimed that without further commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions the world will see temperatures rise by four degrees and experience extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and sea levels rise.

The World Bank’s analysis, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided, says scientists are predicting that today’s climate could warm from the current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, to as high as 4°C by 2100, even if countries fulfil current emissions-reduction targets.

An even more concerning scenario was projected earlier this month when PriceWaterHouseCoopers claimed that even doubling the current rate of decarbonisation would still lead to emissions consistent with six degrees of warming by the end of the century.

Leigh Stringer

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