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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.
Extreme weather events are increasingly influencing adaptation policies
Climate risk assessments that take account of threats like heatwaves, droughts, floods and wildfires are increasingly being used to inform and improve national adaptation policies.
Heatwaves, droughts, floods and increasing wildfires were the top extreme weather events reported by national authorities in 2023. Many countries also reported that they expected an increase of frequency and intensity of these events.
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.