Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Europe Changing Fast as Climate Warms

BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 26, 2012 (ENS) – Climate change is affecting all regions of Europe as glaciers melt, the Greenland ice sheet shrinks, sea levels rise, snow cover decreases and permafrost soils warm, finds a new assessment issued by the European Environment Agency.

The report by 50 authors was published in advance of the annual United Nations climate summit, which opened Monday in Doha, Qatar.

Higher average temperatures have been observed across Europe with decreasing precipitation in southern regions and increasing precipitation in northern Europe, according to the report, “Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012.”

Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency said, “Climate change is a reality around the world, and the extent and speed of change is becoming ever more evident. This means that every part of the economy, including households, need to adapt as well as reduce emissions.”

Extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods and droughts have caused soaring damage costs across Europe in recent years.

Future climate change is expected to add to this vulnerability, as extreme weather events are expected to become more intense and frequent. If European societies do not adapt, damage costs are expected to continue rising.

While more evidence is needed to determine the part played by climate change in this trend, growing human activity in hazard-prone areas has been a key factor, according to the EEA report.

Some regions will be less able to adapt to climate change than others, in part due to economic disparities across Europe, and the effects of climate change could deepen these inequalities, the report says.

The last decade (2002–2011) was the warmest on record in Europe, with European land temperature 1.3° C warmer than the pre-industrial average. Various model projections show that Europe could be 2.5–4° C warmer in the later 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. The projected increase in heat waves could increase the number of related deaths over the next decades, unless societies adapt, the report says. However, cold-related deaths are projected to decrease in many countries.

Climate change is projected to increase river flooding, particularly in northern Europe, as higher temperatures intensify the water cycle.

River flow droughts appear to have become more severe and frequent in southern Europe. Minimum river flows are projected to decrease in summer in southern Europe but also in many other parts of Europe. More