What Major Climate Impacts Can Europe Expect To See?
As global temperatures increase, no continent will escape the realities of climate change and, indeed, the effects are already being felt by millions around the world.
For Europe, it seems as though the pressures the region is most likely to experience in the near future are diminishing water resources (particularly in the south) and declining agricultural yields, the Guardian reports.
This is according to a new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the latest in a series of periodic assessments that inform policymaker decisions on how to prevent global warming beyond the 1.1 degrees C that has already been seen since industrial times.
Major climate impacts for Europe include extreme heat, floods and droughts, which will result in widespread disruption of the economy, greater water demand, damage to infrastructure and energy supplies, and the need for more air-conditioning.
The report suggested that the continent will be divided in half, with the south facing issues like desertification and having to compete increasingly for scarcer water. The north, meanwhile, would see a more traditional Mediterranean climate, which could see some improved crop yields and forest growths, but which would also bring risks of its own.
The report went on to warn that a rise of an additional 1.9 degrees C could potentially cause corn harvest losses of 50 per cent, particularly in southern Europe. Wheat harvests, meanwhile, could possibly increase in the north as long as warming doesn’t surpass two degrees C since pre-industrial levels.
As a result of combined heat and drought, the report concluded: “Substantive agricultural production losses are projected for most European areas over the 21st century, which will not be offset by gains in Northern Europe”.
Other negative impacts expected to hit Europe include a tenfold increase in coastal damage at least by the end of the century. Furthermore, if the three degree C warming threshold is reached, it could double the number of people affected by precipitation and river flooding, as well as doubling damage costs.
Where water stress and scarcity is concerned, figures from the European Environment Agency show that this is a major and growing concern for the continent.
Around 30 per cent of Europeans are affected by water stress in an average year, with around 20 per cent of the European territory affected by droughts and water scarcity. This is expected to be exacerbated by climate change, with droughts now increasing in frequency, magnitude and impact.
These trends are particularly concerning for southern and south-western Europe, with summertime river discharge potentially declining by up to 40 per cent in a three degree C temperature increase scenario.
As such, the argument is now being made to move from a model of crisis management to one of risk management, including prioritising more measures to address water consumption.