Climate change is already impacting Europeans’ daily lives and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Europe is expected to get warmer, some regions getting drier, while others wetter. These changes will not only impact our health but also the ecosystems we depend on. The EU is preparing to live with a changing climate through various adaptation measures.  

Editorial — Preparing Europe for a changing climate

From wildfires to disastrous floods across southern Europe, the summer of 2023 will be remembered by extreme weather. How prepared are we for such events and their impacts? Relentless heatwaves affecting millions of Europeans across the continent, wildfires and flash floods impacting many communities call for even more ambitious action to prepare a new reality while speeding up the transition towards sustainability.

Europe's regions will need to prepare for different impacts

While climate change impacts are felt throughout the EU, the impacts felt in different regions will vary. Our assessment also shows that some regions are more vulnerable:

  • Changes in rainfall will differ considerably throughout Europe, with expected heavy rain in the north. Combined with more frequent heatwaves, lower rainfall will present a greater risk of drought and forest fires in the south. 
  • Storm intensity is projected to increase across Europe, but changes in frequency are projected to differ across regions. 
  • Snowfall is projected to decrease in central and southern Europe, whereas mixed changes are anticipated for northern Europe.
  • Sea levels will rise in all areas except the North Baltic Sea. 
  • Sea surface temperature is projected to increase in all European seas. Europe’s seas are also expected to become more acidic.

Climate-ADAPT platform: Sharing adaptation knowledge for a climate-resilient Europe

Inequality leaves some communities more vulnerable

The most vulnerable in the EU are most likely to be exposed to climate change-related environmental health impacts. 

  • Vulnerable groups like the elderly, children and those in poor health tend to be more adversely affected by environmental health hazards than the general population. 
  • Groups of lower socioeconomic status tend to be more negatively affected by environmental health hazards because of greater exposure and higher vulnerability. 
  • Urban areas have disproportionate exposure to air pollution, noise, and high temperatures — especially among lower socioeconomic groups.

Climate change impacts nature, too

Climate change is already significantly impacting plant and animal species, as well as where they can survive and thrive.

Some species are expected to move northward several hundred kilometres, or toward higher elevations, while others will become extinct. A landscape fragmented by transport infrastructure might hamper their ability to move and adapt.

Climate change is also likely to exacerbate the problem of invasive species in Europe. As climatic conditions change, some locations may become more favourable to non-native species, which then begin to thrive and negatively impact their new environments by outcompeting native species, altering habitats, and contributing to biodiversity loss.

Climate change also affects the interaction of species that depend on each other for food or other reasons.

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