This is the view of the influential European Environment Agency, a wing of the EU.

Arctic leaders are warning that climate change could destroy their culture as the permafrost thaws and ice cover melts, threatening houses and the infrastructure built on the hard ground and destroying the habitat of many species hunted for their survival.

Over the next century they fear this could drive them south, as life in the Arctic becomes untenable.

Meanwhile, many scientific models predict Southern Europe will become drier, potentially turning the Mediterranean area into an arid zone, forcing people to head north.

A recent report from the European Environment Agency confirms that changes in climate and impacts on nature and ecosystems are already underway in several parts of Europe, including the Arctic.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the agency said: “These findings provide even more evidence that climate change is really happening.

“Our report supports policy makers in their efforts to not only reduce emissions of greenhouse gases but also prepare ways to adapt to the changes that will inevitably come.

“Europe has a particular responsibility because of its leadership in the Kyoto process but also because its geography – from the Arctic to the arid regions of the Mediterranean – means that all Europeans will be affected.’

Representatives of indigenous peoples on the Arctic Council have been touring Europe and asking industrialised countries to step up efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Alaska’s Chief Gary Harrison, speaking on behalf of the Arctic Athabaskan Council at a meeting in Denmark this week, said the EU was taking a strong lead on climate change but more needed to be done.

“We know there is some tough sledding ahead to make the rest of the cuts in greenhouse gases that will be needed,” he said.

“We came to let people know that climate change is already having an effect in the Arctic, and it will soon be affecting Europe too. It’s really important that Europeans commit to more reductions once the Kyoto commitments are complemented.”

As well as coping with the influx of people, EEA data suggests Europe’s central areas can also look forward to increased flooding in years to come and will likely be the worst-affected part of the continent.

by Sam Bond

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