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You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Climate change

Climate change

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Climate change is happening now: temperatures are rising, rainfall patterns are shifting, glaciers and snow are melting, and the global mean sea level is rising. We expect that these changes will continue, and that extreme weather events resulting in hazards such as floods and droughts will become more frequent and intense. Impacts and vulnerabilities for nature, the economy and our health differ across regions, territories and economic sectors in Europe. More

Key facts and messages
Climate change — The EU has reduced its greenhouse gas emission and is on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol commitments. However, global and European cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are far from sufficient to keep average world temperature increases... more
Global mean temperature in 2009 was 0.7-0.8 °C higher than in pre-industrial times and the decade 2000-2009 was the warmest on record. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in 2007 that most of the global warming since... more
Land and ocean sinks have taken up more than half of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since 1800, but these natural sinks are vulnerable to climate and land-use change and are highly likely to take up less CO2 in future. more
The extent of Arctic summer sea ice has declined by about 10 % per decade since 1979. The extent of the minimum ice cover in September 2007 was half the size of the normal minimum extent in the 1950s; the third lowest minimum extent occurred... more
Observed global mean sea level rise has accelerated over the past 15 years. From 2002 to 2009 the contributions of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise increased. In 2007 the IPCC projected a sea level rise of 0.18 to... more
The vast majority of glaciers in Europe are in retreat. Glaciers in the Alps lost about two-thirds of their volume between 1850 and 2009. The glacierised area in the Alps is projected to decrease to about one-third of the present area for a... more
Recent research suggests that several key components of the climate system could undergo irreversible change at significantly lower levels of global temperature increase than previously assessed. The most important of these “tipping elements”... more
The EU emitted close to 5 billion tonnes (Gt) of CO2-equivalents in 2008. It contributes today around 12 % of annual global anthropogenic direct greenhouse gas emissions. more
The greenhouse gas emission reductions observed in Europe over the last two decades are a combined result of the economic restructuring that occurred mainly in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, the policies and measures implemented to reduce greenhouse... more
EEA member countries collectively reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 7.5 % and per capita emissions from 10.9 to 9.3 tonnes CO2-equivalent between 1990 and 2008. more
The reduction of ozone-depleting substances under the UNEP Montreal Protocol has also resulted in greenhouse gas emissions cuts significantly larger than the emission reductions that will take place under the Kyoto Protocol until 2012. more
Scientific studies show that global greenhouse gas emissions should not exceed 44 to 46 Gt CO2-equivalents per year by 2020 in order to give a 50 % chance of limiting global mean temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The... more
The EU is making good progress towards achieving its emission reduction targets. In the EU-27, which has set an independent target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 % by 2020 as compared to 1990 levels, emissions were 11.3 %... more
Vulnerabilities differ across regions, sectors and communities, with pronounced consequences expected in the Mediterranean basin, north-western and central-eastern Europe and the Arctic. Many coastal zones, mountains and areas prone to river... more
The costs of adaptation in Europe could amount to billions of Euro per year in the medium and long term. Although the economics of adaptation options so far relies on limited information and a few modelling tools, assessments suggest that timely... more
Observed and projected climate change have far-reaching impacts in Europe including an increase in temperature, sea-level rise, changes in precipitation patterns and water availability, and more frequent and intense extreme weather events such... more
So far 11 European countries, and a few regions and cities, have adopted adaptation strategies. Mainstreaming adaptation in EU policies, strengthening the knowledge base and facilitating information sharing are key levers for building resilience.... more
A temperature rise of 2 °C or more above pre-industrial levels is likely to cause major societal, economic and environmental disruption, making it challenging for human and natural systems to adapt at affordable costs. Climate change will affect... more
Adaptation strategies can reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience. An increasing number of options have been identified, including no-regret measures that are relevant under all plausible future scenarios. In addition to technological... more
The understanding of the relationship between land use and environmental impacts must be improved. There is a need to assess inherent trade-offs and feed-backs between land use and ecosystem services, including indirect land use effects (Europe’s... more
Sea surface temperatures and sea level are rising and likely to rise further. The resulting shifts in the geographical and seasonal distribution of marine and coastal species will require adaptations in the management of fisheries and natural... more
Degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems is observed in the Black, Mediterranean, Baltic, North East Atlantic Seas and in the Arctic. This trend is caused by fishing, agriculture, the industrial use of chemicals, tourist development, shipping,... more
Water scarcity and droughts have severe consequences for many economic sectors. Over-abstraction is causing low river flows, lowered groundwater levels and the drying-up of wetlands, with detrimental impacts on freshwater ecosystems. Climate... more
Over the past ten years Europe has suffered more than 175 major floods, causing deaths, the displacement of people and large economic losses. Climate change is projected to increase the intensity and frequency of floods. more
Air pollution and climate change share common sources of emissions – primarily from fuel combustion in industry and households, transport and agriculture. A number of air pollutants contribute to changes in atmospheric radiative forcing. Many... more
Despite some improvements, European cities and their inhabitants will still face a number of important challenges in the future. They are highly vulnerable to many impacts of climate change such as heat waves, water scarcity, flooding, and related... more
Over one year a mature tree will take up about 22 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and in exchange release oxygen. Each year, 1.3 million trees are estimated to remove more than 2500 tonnes of pollutants from the air. more
The concentration of 'Kyoto gases' reached 438 ppm CO2-equivalent in 2008. more
By 2100, the concentration of 'Kyoto gases' is projected to increase to 638-1360 ppm CO2-equivalent. more
The decade 2000-2009 was the warmest on record. Europe has warmed more than the global average. more
By 2100, ocean acidity could be higher than during the past 20 million years. more
The third lowest minimum of Arctic summer sea ice occurred in September 2010. more
In 2007, the IPCC projected a sea level rise of 0.18 to 0.59 m above the 1990 level by 2100. more
Recent projections show a maximum increase of sea level of about 1.0 m by 2100, while higher values up to 2.0 m cannot be excluded. more
The EU contributes around 12 % of annual global anthropogenic direct greenhouse gas emissions. more
Global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to keep average world temperature increases below 2° C. more
The UNEP Montreal Protocol resulted in a significant reduction of emissions of some potent greenhouse gases. more
According to preliminary estimates, EU greenhouse gas emissions were 17 % below 1990 levels in 2009. more
The EU-15 is on track to meet its common Kyoto Protocol target (8 % reduction compared to 1990 levels). Other EU Member States with individual Kyoto targets are also on track. more
Temperature rises of 2° C or more are likely to cause major disruptions. more
Temperature is expected to increase this century by at least 0.6° C due to past emissions. more
So far, 11 European countries, and a few regions and cities, have adopted climate adaptation strategies. more
Europe's soils store about 73 to 79 billion tonnes of carbon. Some 45 % of soils in Europe have a low or very low organic matter content (meaning 0-2 % organic carbon) and 45 % have a medium content (meaning 2-6 % organic carbon). more
The sea surface temperature changes in the European regional seas have been up to six times greater than in the global oceans in the past 25 years. more
Over the past ten years, Europe suffered more than 175 major floods, causing deaths, the displacement of people and large economic losses. more
A comparison of the impacts of droughts in the EU between 1976-1990 and 1991-2006 shows a doubling in both area and population affected. more
Home energy use is responsible overall for 25 % of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union. more
When the indirect emissions are considered, greenhouse gas emissions from the residential sector double (from 12 to 25 %) and the commercial sector trebles (from 5 to 15 %). Industry jumps from 15 to 26% when indirect emissions are factored... more
Road transport is responsible for 17.5 % of overall greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and its emissions increased by 23 % between 1990 and 2009. more

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