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EEA issues Climate Change Report for Europe


On November 21st the Copenhagen based European Environment Agency released a major indicators based report on the current and predicted impact of climate change on EU countries. Some of the main conclusions are:

  • The last decade was the warmest on record in Europe, with land temperatures 1.3° C warmer than the pre-industrial average. Some models predict that Europe will be 2.5–4° C warmer in the latter part of the 21st Century, compared to the 1961–1990 average;
  • Heat waves have increased in frequency and length, causing tens of thousands of deaths over the last decade. However, cold-related deaths are projected to decrease in many countries;
  • While precipitation is decreasing in southern regions, it is increasing in northern Europe. These trends are projected to continue.  Climate change is projected to increase river flooding, particularly in northern Europe, as higher temperatures intensify the water cycle. This is likely to have a significant impact on areas susceptible to river flooding in Ireland;
  • River flow droughts appear to have become more severe and frequent in southern Europe. Minimum river flows are projected to decrease significantly in summer in southern Europe but also in many other parts of Europe to varying degrees;
  • The Arctic is warming faster than other regions. Record low sea ice was observed in the Arctic in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Melting of the Greenland ice sheet has doubled since the 1990s, losing an average of 250 billion tonnes of mass every year between 2005 and 2009. Glaciers in the Alps have lost approximately two thirds of their volume since 1850 and these trends are projected to continue;
  • Sea levels are rising, raising the risk of coastal flooding during storm events. Global average sea levels have risen by 1.7mm a year in the 20th century, and by 3mm a year in recent decades. Future projections vary widely, but it is likely that the 21st century sea-level rise will be greater than during the 20th century;
  • Climate change plays a part in the transmission of certain diseases. For example, it allows the tick species Ixodes ricinus to thrive further north, while further warming may make parts of Europe more suitable for disease-carrying mosquitos and sandflies. The pollen season is longer and arrives 10 days earlier than 50 years ago, also affecting human health;
  • Many studies have measured widespread changes in plant and animal characteristics. For example, plants are flowering earlier in the year, while, in freshwater, phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms are also appearing earlier. Other animals and plants are moving northward or uphill as their habitats warm. Since the migration rate of many species is insufficient to keep pace with the speed of climate change, they could be pushed towards extinction in the future;
  • While there may be less water available for agriculture in southern Europe, growing conditions may improve in other areas. The growing season for several crops in Europe has lengthened and this is projected to continue, alongside the expansion of warm-season crops into more northerly latitudes. However the yield is projected to fall for some crops due to heat waves and droughts in central and southern Europe. Overall, with the possible exception of areas prone to flooding, agriculture in Ireland is expected to generally benefit from rising temperatures;
  • As temperatures rise, demand for heating has also fallen, saving energy. However, this must be balanced against higher energy demands for cooling during hotter summers.

The full report can be downloaded here