Articles

Effective policies are based on a robust knowledge base and solid science

At all governance levels, public policy making entails making decisions between different options and approaches. Some decisions, such as to invest in fossil fuels or renewables, might involve selecting one option over the other. Others might address the ‘how’ question – we will invest in renewables but which ones are the best for the society? Each policy decision results in outcomes, some of which might be unforeseen, unexpected or even detrimental to those whose lives it is supposed to improve. In the long term, the overall harm can be much larger than gains in the short term. To achieve the positive and lasting results on the ground, policy makers need to be able to make informed decisions, after assessing the benefits and costs of each available option.

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Climate finance: resources for low-carbon, climate-resilient Europe

Our climate is changing. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the rate of climate change, and at the same time, take measures that help us prepare for current and future impacts. Both of these strands of action require unprecedented redirection of investments. This was acknowledged by the climate conferences in Paris and recently in Marrakesh. The finance sector can and will play an instrumental role in supporting Europe’s transition towards a low- carbon, climate-resilient society.

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Climate change and the seas

Climate change is warming the oceans, causing acidification of marine environments, and changing rainfall patterns. This combination of factors often exacerbates the impacts of other human pressures on the seas, leading to loss of marine biodiversity. Many human livelihoods depend on marine biodiversity and ecosystems, so action to limit ocean warming must be taken quickly.

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Climate change and investments

Measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change are often considered to be expensive, and are seen as an additional burden on the economy. But European countries are already spending public and private funds on research, infrastructure, agriculture, energy, transport, urban development, social protection, health, and nature conservation. We can ensure that our existing expenditure on these areas favours climate-friendly and sustainable options that will help to create new jobs.

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Climate change and human health

Climate change in Europe is already affecting public health, and will continue to do so in the future. How does it affect Europeans today? What does the future look like? We asked these questions to Bettina Menne from WHO Europe.

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Agriculture and climate change

Agriculture both contributes to climate change and is affected by climate change. The EU needs to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture and adapt its food-production system to cope with climate change. But climate change is only one of many pressures on agriculture. Faced with growing global demand and competition for resources, the EU’s food production and consumption need to be seen in a broader context, linking agriculture, energy, and food security.

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Climate change and cities

Most Europeans now live in cities, so the choices we make about urban infrastructure will have a large influence on how well we cope with climate change. More frequent rainfall, flooding, and heatwaves are likely to be among the challenges that Europe’s cities will face from climate change. We asked Holger Robrecht, Deputy Regional Director of ICLEI, what cities are doing to adapt to climate change.

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Are we ready for climate change?

Climate change is causing a variety of impacts to our health, ecosystems and economy. These impacts are likely to become more serious in the coming decades. If not addressed, these impacts could prove very costly, in terms of ill health, adverse effects on ecosystems, and damaged property and infrastructure. Many adaptation projects are already underway across Europe to prepare for a changing climate.

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Living in a changing climate

Our climate is changing. Scientific evidence shows that the global average temperature is rising, and rainfall patterns are shifting. It also shows that glaciers, Arctic sea-ice and the Greenland ice sheet are melting. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report shows that the warming since the mid-20th century is predominantly due to an increase in greenhouse-gas concentrations as a result of emissions from human activities. Combustion of fossil fuels and changes in land use are largely responsible for this increase.

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Soil and climate change

Soil is an important — and often neglected — element of the climate system. It is the second largest carbon store, or ‘sink’, after the oceans. Depending on the region, climate change might result in more carbon being stored in plants and soil due to vegetation growth, or more carbon being released into the atmosphere. Restoring key ecosystems on land, and a sustainable use of the land in urban and rural areas, can help us mitigate and adapt to climate change.

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Climate change: investing in low-carbon solutions and adaptation

Our climate is changing. We need to adapt to current and expected changes, while maximising our efforts to quickly and sharply reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. And 2015 can be a turning point for global climate policies. Europe and the world must seize the opportunity and allocate sufficient funds to end the carbon dependency of the global economy.

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Preparing Europe’s cities for climate change impacts

Climate change is impacting and will continue to impact Europe. Are cities ready to face rising sea levels and temperatures and more extreme events like floods, droughts or heat waves? We asked this question to Birgit Georgi, working on regional vulnerability and climate change adaptation at the European Environment Agency.

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The melting Arctic

The melting Arctic

21 Dec 2012

The extent of the sea ice in the Arctic reached a new record low in September 2012. Climate change is melting the sea ice in the region at a rate much faster than estimated by earlier projections. The snow cover also shows a downward trend. The melting Arctic might impact not only the people living in the region, but also elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

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Turning the urban challenge into an opportunity

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.

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Forests, health and 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.

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Health in a changing climate

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).

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Cities of the future — how will European cities adapt to new climate conditions?

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.

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If the well runs dry — climate change adaptation and water

'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.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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