Personal tools

Notifications
Get notifications on new reports and products. Frequency: 3-4 emails / month.
Subscriptions
Sign up to receive our reports (print and/or electronic) and quarterly e-newsletter.
Follow us
Twitter icon Twitter
Facebook icon Facebook
YouTube icon YouTube channel
RSS logo RSS Feeds
More

Write to us Write to us

For the public:


For media and journalists:

Contact EEA staff
Contact the web team
FAQ

Call us Call us

Reception:

Phone: (+45) 33 36 71 00
Fax: (+45) 33 36 71 99


next
previous
items

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sound and independent information
on the environment

You are here: Home / Media / News / Climate change evident across Europe, confirming urgent need for adaptation

Climate change evident across Europe, confirming urgent need for adaptation

Change language
Climate change is affecting all regions in Europe, causing a wide range of impacts on society and the environment. Further impacts are expected in the future, potentially causing high damage costs, according to the latest assessment published by the European Environment Agency today.

 Image © istockphoto

Climate change is a reality around the world, and the extent and speed of change is becoming ever more evident.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director

The report, ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012’ finds that higher average temperatures have been observed across Europe as well as decreasing precipitation in southern regions and increasing precipitation in northern Europe. The Greenland ice sheet, Arctic sea ice and many glaciers across Europe are melting, snow cover has decreased and most permafrost soils have warmed. 

Extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods and droughts have caused rising damage costs across Europe in recent years.  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. If European societies do not adapt, damage costs are expected to continue to rise, according to the report.

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.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director 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.”

Observed climate change and future projections – some key findings

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.

Heat waves have increased in frequency and length, causing tens of thousands of deaths over the last decade. The projected increase in heat waves could increase the number of related deaths over the next decades, unless societies adapt, the report says. However, cold-related deaths are projected to decrease in many countries.

While precipitation is decreasing in southern regions, it is increasing in northern Europe, the report says. These trends are projected to continue.  Climate change is projected to increase river flooding, particularly in northern Europe, as higher temperatures intensify the water cycle. However, it is difficult to discern the influence of climate change in flooding data records for the past.

River flow droughts appear to have become more severe and frequent in southern Europe. Minimum river flows are projected to decrease significantly in summer in southern Europe but also in many other parts of Europe to varying degrees.

The Arctic is warming faster than other regions. Record low sea ice was observed in the Arctic in 2007, 2011 and 2012, falling to roughly half the minimum extent seen in the 1980s. Melting of the Greenland ice sheet has doubled since the 1990s, losing an average of 250 billion tonnes of mass every year between 2005 and 2009. Glaciers in the Alps have lost approximately two thirds of their volume since 1850 and these trends are projected to continue.

Sea levels are rising, raising the risk of coastal flooding during storm events. Global average sea level has risen by 1.7mm a year in the 20th century, and by 3mm a year in recent decades. Future projections vary widely, but it is likely that 21st century sea-level rise will be greater than during the 20th century.  However sea level rise at European coasts varies, for example due to local land movement.

Besides heat-related health impacts, other human health effects are also important, the report says. Climate change plays a part in the transmission of certain diseases. 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 and sandflies. The pollen season is longer and arrives 10 days earlier than 50 years ago, also affecting human health.

Many studies have measured widespread changes in plant and animal characteristics. For example, plants are flowering earlier in the year, while in freshwater phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms are also appearing earlier. Other animals and plants are moving northward or uphill as their habitats warm. Since the migration rate of many species is insufficient to keep pace with the speed of climate change, they could be pushed towards extinction in the future.

While there may be less water available for agriculture in southern Europe, growing conditions may improve in other areas. The growing season for several crops in Europe has lengthened and this is projected to continue, alongside the expansion of warm-season crops into more northerly latitudes. However the yield is projected to fall for some crops due to heat waves and droughts in central and southern Europe.

As temperatures rise, demand for heating has also fallen, saving energy. However, this must be balanced against higher energy demands for cooling during hotter summers.

Background

The report is intended to show the full extent of climate change impacts across Europe, also informing the European Commission’s European Adaptation Strategy to be published in March 2013. Moreover, the EEA will support the strategy with an assessment of a selection of adaptation actions across Europe, to be published in early 2013.

The website Climate-ADAPT includes a large amount of information intended to assist in developing and implementing climate change adaptation.

The report involved approximately 50 authors. Some parts were contributed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Related content

News and articles

Related publications

Geographical coverage

[+] Show Map

Document Actions
Sign up now!
Get notifications on new reports and products. Currently we have 32967 subscribers. Frequency: 3-4 emails / month.
Notifications archive
Follow us
 
 
 
 
 
Archive
Upcoming Events
Quick Event EnviroInfo Oldenburg, Germany 10 Sep 2014 - 12 Sep 2014 — Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg K.d.ö.R., Ammerländer Heerstraße 114-118, 26129 Oldenburg, Deutschland
Quick Event EnviroInfo Oldenburg, Germany 10 Sep 2014 - 12 Sep 2014 — Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg K.d.ö.R., Ammerländer Heerstraße 114-118, 26129 Oldenburg, Deutschland
Quick Event 17th International River Symposium 15 Sep 2014 - 18 Sep 2014 — Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Quick Event 8th European Conference on Pesticides and Related Organic Micropollutants in the Environment &14th Symposium on Chemistry and Fate of Modern Pesticides 18 Sep 2014 - 21 Sep 2014 — Epirus, Greece
Quick Event 29th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition (EU PVSEC 2014) 22 Sep 2014 - 26 Sep 2014 — Europaplein, 1078 GZ Amsterdam, Niederlande
Upcoming events…
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100