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Copenhagen, 2 July 2011. Up to 150 mm of rainfall in two hours – a city record since measurements began in the mid-1800s. Homes destroyed. Citizens and emergency services struggled to cope. This is one example of how excessive extreme weather events can affect a European capital – events that are expected more often under climate change.
Forests are essential to our survival and well-being. Forests clean our air, our water, our soil and they regulate our climate, amongst many other things. Trees and forests are not always associated with urban landscapes. However, there too they provide invaluable, often invisible, services. Simply by acting as 'green oasis' in our concrete jungles, they offer recreation and health services for many European citizens.
In August 2007, local health authorities in Italy detected a high number of cases of an unusual illness in Castiglione di Cervia and Castiglione di Ravenna, two small villages divided by a river. Almost 200 people were affected and one elderly man died (Angelini et al., 2007).
Lower speed limits on motorways are generally associated with road safety. But several European countries are now debating whether they also benefit the environment and, if so, how much. There is no simple way of measuring the environmental benefits of lower speed limits but several factors clearly play a key role.
Climate change is happening. The current global average temperature is already about 0.7-0.8 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level. Even if greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations had stabilized in the year 2000, temperatures are predicted to increase by 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level by the end of the 21st century.
As the source of substantial and rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions, transport must clearly be part of a global agreement to mitigate climate change.
Cities and towns are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and will need to find innovative ways to adapt. Now is the time to start rethinking urban design and management — yet few have taken concrete action.
Barcelona is becoming a leader in solar energy use, Malmö is developing a carbon neutral residential area and London is setting ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets. Cities are joining in the fight against climate change.
'Our water is shut off once or twice a month, sometimes more,' says Baris Tekin from his apartment in Besiktas, an historic district of Istanbul, where he lives with his wife and daughter. 'We have about 50 litres of bottled water in the apartment for washing and cleaning, just in case. If the water is off for a really long time we go to my father's place or to my wife's parents,' says Baris, an economics professor at Marmara University.
The seas, and especially the European ones, are warming up. More likely than not, the Arctic will have ice-free summers well before the end of this century. Fish and plankton are already expanding their geographical distribution further north, and the seasonal cycles of certain species are changing.
A fisherman's tale: on the night of 6 October 1986 lobster fishermen from the small town of Gilleleje, north of Copenhagen, fishing the Kattegat Sea, found their nets crammed with Norway lobster. Many of the animals were dead or dying. About half were a strange colour.
Every winter the gates of Copenhagen's famous Tivoli Gardens, an old-world amusement park in the city centre, open to officially mark the beginning of the extended Christmas period. This December the twinkling lights of Tivoli will most likely be outshone by COP 15 — the most important global climate change meeting ever — as thousands of diplomats, politicians, business people, environmentalists, media and climate experts from around the globe flock to the Danish capital.
Bioenergy is not new. For millennia, people have been burning wood. The industrial revolution in the mid-1800s brought so called 'fossil fuels', mainly coal and oil, to the fore. However, fossil fuels are becoming more difficult to find and extract, more expensive, and subject to intense political debate.
Climate change is happening and its effects are wide-ranging. While the worst effects may not hit Europe this year or next, we cannot afford to be complacent. Europeans must put in place timely, adequate and cost-effective adaptation measures.
Climate change adaptation must be integrated into policies across all sectors and engage all levels of society. To achieve this, new frameworks and governance structures are needed.
We already have much information to guide strategic climate change response measures at the EU, national, regional and local levels. But the effectiveness and efficiency of actions can be improved with more and better information.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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