Climate change to cause more extreme weather events in Europe, say scientists


Climate change is now affecting all regions in Europe, causing a wide range of impacts on society and the environment, with the damage it causes likely to become more costly in future, according to the European Environment Agency.

Its report, Climate Change, Impacts and Vulnerability in Europe 2012, confirms that the past 10 years were the warmest on record in Europe, with a pattern of decreasing rainfall in southern regions and increasing rainfall in northern regions.

Climate change is projected to increase river flooding, particularly in northern Europe, as higher temperatures intensify periodic rainfall – although the report concedes that it is “difficult to discern the influence of climate change in flooding data records”.

But the Greenland ice sheet, Arctic sea ice and many glaciers across Europe “are melting”, it says bluntly. “Extreme weather events such as heatwaves, floods and droughts have caused rising damage costs across Europe in recent years.Heatwaves have increased in frequency and length, causing tens of thousands of deaths over the last decade. The projected increase in heatwaves could increase the number of related deaths over the next decades, unless societies adapt.

“Future climate change is expected to add to this vulnerability, as extreme weather events are expected to become more intense and frequent”, it says, adding that some regions will be less able to adapt than others “due to economic disparities”.

The Copenhagen-based agency also noted that climate change had an impact on human health. “For example, it allows the tick species Ixodes ricinus to thrive further north, while further warming may make parts of Europe more suitable for disease-carrying mosquitos”.

Meanwhile, another new report says action on global warming “needs to be scaled-up and accelerated without delay” if the world is to have a chance of keeping the worldwide average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century.

The Emissions Gap Report, co-ordinated by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) and the European Climate Foundation, was released yesterday, days before the start of this year’s UN climate change conference in Doha, Qatar.

It shows that greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are now around 14 per cent above where they need to be in 2020 if the 2 degree target is to be met.

Instead of declining, warming gases have actually increased by around 20 per cent since 2000.

“If no swift action is taken by nations, emissions are likely to be at 58 gigatonnes (Gt) in eight years’ time,” warns the report, which involved 55 scientists from more than 20 countries. This would leave a bigger gap to be bridged than previously estimated.

Earlier reports underlined that emissions needed to be on average at around 44 Gt or less in 2020. But the latest report notes that even if countries implemented all of their ambitious pledges and commitments, there could still be a gap of 8 Gt by 2020.