Europe is facing rising sea levels and more extreme weather like flooding, droughts, heatwaves and storms as a result of climate change, according to a new report published today by the European Environment Agency.
The report, 'Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016' states that changes to climate that have already been observed are having impacts on ecosystems, the economy and human wellbeing and health in Europe. It goes on to say that climate change-related extreme weather events have cost European economies at least 400 billion Euros since 1980.
‘Climate change will continue for many decades to come. The scale of future climate change and its impacts will depend on the effectiveness of implementing our global agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but also ensuring that we have the right adaptation strategies and policies in place to reduce the risks from current and projected climate extremes,’ said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.
The report urges all countries in Europe to increase their work on adapting to climate change, as well as redoubling their efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It says that average land temperatures in Europe were 1.5C higher in the last decade than they were during the pre-Industrial period, though the increase dropped to an average of about 0.85C when measured at a metre above ground level.
Western Europe (including the UK) will see an increased risk of flooding, particularly in coastal areas, which will see a combination of rising sea levels together with an increased chance of storm surges. The report predicts that sea levels will rise by 1.5m to 2m by 2100. We will also see greater precipitation, increased river flow and an increase in extreme weather events. On the positive side, the warming climate means that over time, we will see a lowering of demand for energy used to heat our homes.
In Scandinavia, there will be less snow, less river ice, more winter storms and an increased risk of pest infestations. However, increased water flow will make the regions hydroelectric power more effective and the report predicts that increasing numbers of toursist will head there to escape the extreme heat of our current favourite destinations around the Mediterrannean.
Rapidly rising sea and air temperatures in the Arctic mean that many key habitats like sea ice, permafrost peat lands and tundra have already been lost, a trend that looks set to continue. On the benefits side the report suggest that warming temperatures could open up more opportunities to exploit natural resources in the Arctic. However, this is also a potential problem, as any exploitation of fossil fuels in the area would delay our change to a low-carbon world and add to climate change.
Meanwhile southern and south-Eastern Europe are already seeing increases in extreme heat, decreased precipitation and changing river flows. This is likely to cause more frequent droughts, heatwaves and forest fires, while decresing.crop yields. The report expects that more frequent heatwaves in countries around the Mediterrannean will mean that they become less attractive as tourist destinations in summer months, but that tourism in these countries will increase in other seasons. It is also likely that climate-sensitive infectious diseases like West Nile fever will start to spread into southern Europe.
Photo of forest fire in Tuscany, Italy, 2012 by Antonio Cinotti