Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016

Publication Created 11 Feb 2016 Published 25 Jan 2017
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This report is an indicator-based assessment of past and projected climate change and its impacts on ecosystems and society. It also looks at society’s vulnerability to these impacts and at the development of adaptation policies and the underlying knowledge base. This is the fourth ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe’ report, which is published every four years. This edition aims to support the implementation and review process of the 2013 EU Adaptation Strategy, which is foreseen for 2018, and the development of national and transnational adaptation strategies and plans.
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Publication Created 11 Feb 2016 Published 25 Jan 2017
1 min read
EEA Report No 1/2017
This report is an indicator-based assessment of past and projected climate change and its impacts on ecosystems and society. It also looks at society’s vulnerability to these impacts and at the development of adaptation policies and the underlying knowledge base. This is the fourth ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe’ report, which is published every four years. This edition aims to support the implementation and review process of the 2013 EU Adaptation Strategy, which is foreseen for 2018, and the development of national and transnational adaptation strategies and plans.

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    Economic losses from climate-related extremes Economic losses from climate-related extremes Over the period 1980-2016, t he total reported economic losses caused by weather and climate-related extremes in the EEA member countries amounted to approximately EUR 436 billion (in 2016 Euro values).  Average annual economic losses varied between EUR 7.4 billion over the period 1980-1989, EUR 13.3 billion (1990-1999) and EUR 13.9 billion (2000-2009). Between 2010 and 2016, average annual losses were around EUR 12.8 billion. This high variability makes the analysis of historical trends difficult, since the choice of years heavily influences the trend outcome. The observed variations in reported economic losses over time are difficult to interpret since a large share of the total deflated losses has been caused by a small number of events. Specifically, more than 70 % of economic losses were caused by just 3 % of all unique registered events. Between 1980 and 2016, natural disasters caused by weather and climate-related extremes accounted for some 83 % of the monetary losses in the EU Member States. Throughout these 37 years, weather and climate-related losses accounted for a total of EUR 410 billion (at 2016 values). Reported economic losses mainly reflect monetised direct damages to certain assets. The loss of human life, cultural heritage or ecosystem services is not part of the estimation. In the EU, the most expensive climate extremes in the  period  analysed include the 2002 flood in Central Europe (over EUR 20 billion), the 2003 drought and heat wave (almost EUR 15 billion), and the 1999 winter storm and October 2000 flood in Italy and France (EUR 13 billion), all at 2016 values.
    Global and European sea level Global and European sea level Global mean sea level in 2016 was the highest yearly average since measurements started in the late 19 th century; it was about 20 cm higher than at the beginning of the 20 th century. Estimates for the average rate of global sea level rise over the 20 th century range from 1.2 to 1.7 mm/year, with significant decadal variation. The rate of sea level rise since 1993, when satellite measurements became available, has been significantly higher, at around 3 mm/year. Evidence showing the predominant role of anthropogenic climate change in observed global mean sea level rise and the acceleration of sea level rise during recent decades has strengthened since the publication of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). All coastal regions in Europe have experienced an increase in absolute sea level, but with significant regional variation. Most coastal regions have also experienced an increase in sea level relative to land, with the exception of the northern Baltic Sea and the northern Atlantic coast, which are experiencing considerable land rise as a consequence of post-glacial rebound. Extreme high coastal water levels have increased at most locations along the European coastline. This increase appears to be predominantly due to increases in mean local sea level rather than to changes in storm activity. Global mean sea level rise during the 21st century will very likely occur at a higher rate than during the period 1971–2010. Process-based models considered in the IPCC AR5 project a rise in sea level over the 21st century (2100 vs. 1986–2005 baseline) that is likely (i.e. 66 % probability) in the range of 0.28–0.61 m for a low emissions scenario (RCP2.6) and 0.52–0.98 m for a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5). However, substantially higher values of sea level rise cannot be ruled out. Several recent model-based studies, expert assessments and national assessments have suggested an upper bound for 21st century global mean sea level rise in the range of 1.5–2.5 m. A recent study extending the IPCC AR5 projections estimates global sea level rise by 2300 to be in the range of 0.8–1.4 m for a low emissions scenario (RCP2.6) and 3.4–6.8 m for a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5). These values would rise substantially if the largest estimates of sea level contributions from Antarctica over the coming centuries were included. The rise in sea level relative to land along most European coasts is projected to be similar to the global average, with the exception of the northern Baltic Sea and the northern Atlantic coast, which are experiencing considerable land rise as a consequence of post-glacial rebound. Projected increases in extreme high coastal water levels are likely to mostly be the result of increases in local relative mean sea level in most locations. However, several recent studies suggest that increases in the meteorologically driven surge component could also play a substantial role, in particular along the northern European coastline. All available studies project that the damages from coastal floods in Europe would increase many-fold in the absence of adaptation, whereby the specific projections depend on the assumptions of the particular study.
    Global and European temperature Global and European temperature According to three different observational records of global average annual near-surface (land and ocean) temperature, the last decade (2007–2016) was 0.87 to 0.92 °C warmer than the pre-industrial average, which makes it the warmest decade on record. Of the 17 warmest years on record, 16 have occurred since 2000. The year 2016 was the warmest on record, more than 1.1 °C warmer than the pre-industrial level, followed by 2015. The average annual temperature for the European land area for the last decade (2007–2016) was around 1.6 °C above the pre-industrial level, which makes it the warmest decade on record. Moreover, 2016 was the second warmest year (after 2014) in Europe since instrumental records began. Climate models project further increases in global average temperature over the 21st century (for the period 2081–2100 relative to 1986–2005) of between 0.3 and 1.7 °C for the lowest emissions scenario (RCP2.6) and between 2.6 and 4.8 °C for the highest emissions scenario (RCP8.5). All UNFCCC member countries have agreed on the long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C compared with pre-industrial levels and have agreed to aim to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. For the three highest of the four RCPs, global average temperature increase is projected to exceed 2 °C compared with pre-industrial levels by 2050. Annual average land temperature over Europe is projected to increase by the end of this century (2071–2100 relative to 1971–2000) in the range of 1 to 4.5 °C under RCP4.5 and 2.5 to 5.5 °C under RCP8.5, which is more than the projected global average increase. The strongest warming is projected across north-eastern Europe and Scandinavia in winter and southern Europe in summer. The number of warm days (those exceeding the 90th percentile threshold of a baseline period) have doubled since 1960 across the European land area. Europe has experienced several extreme heat waves since 2000 (2003, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2014 and 2015). Under a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5), extreme heat waves as strong as these or even stronger are projected to occur as often as every two years in the second half of the 21st century. In southern Europe they are projected to be particularly strong.

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