Europe set for warmer northern winters, hotter southern summers and worsening droughts and floods
IPCC report also highlights effective measures for adapting to the expected impacts of climate change
Geneva, 10 April 2007 - An in-depth assessment of climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation in the European region confirms that the continent has already witnessed many of the early impacts of climate change.
A full-length chapter in the newly released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes the ongoing thawing of European glaciers and permafrost, the delayed winter freeze of rivers and lakes, the lengthening of growing seasons, the earlier spring arrival of migratory birds, and the increasing frequency of weather extremes such as the disastrous heat wave of 2003.
?Having just experienced the warmest winter on record, Europeans can clearly see that their climate is changing, and changing rapidly?, said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which, together with the World Meteorological Organization, established the IPCC in 1988.
?Many of the additional changes anticipated over the coming decades are disturbing, while those that may at first glance seem attractive to some people ? such as warmer northern winters ? will come with many local drawbacks and at a high price for the world as a whole.?
?These expected impacts confirm the wisdom of the European Union?s newly agreed target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. They should also inspire movement towards even greater reductions as well as early action to adapt to Europe?s emerging new climate conditions,? he said.
The IPCC finds that Europe?s sensitivity to future climate change has a distinct north-south gradient. Many research studies indicate that southern Europe will be more severely affected than northern Europe. Its already hot and semi-arid climate is expected to become yet warmer and drier and more prone to drought, threatening its water resources, farms and forests.
In addition to warmer winters, Europe?s northern regions will experience more precipitation and run-off. The expansion of forests and agricultural productivity will be accompanied by greater flooding, coastal erosion, loss of species and melting of glaciers and permafrost.
The IPCC notes that Europe?s vast reaches of low-lying coast is vulnerable to sea level rise, which will likely to threaten up to 2.5 million additional people annually. It expects an increase in winter floods in maritime regions, snowmelt-related floods in Central and Eastern Europe and flash floods throughout the region.
Many plants, reptiles, amphibians and other species are likely to become endangered by the end of the century. A European-wide assessment of numerous plant species under various warming scenarios found that more than half could become vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, or committed to extinction by 2080 if they are unable to disperse. Other studies find that species would generally shift their natural ranges from the southwestern to the northeastern parts of the continent in response to climate change.
The report also explores a wide range of possible measures for adapting to the changing climate. These include accommodating floods through expanded floodplain areas and emergency flood reservoirs, developing detailed coastal management plans, expanding nature reserve to conserve species, introducing new crops and varieties (e.g. replacing winter with spring wheat), promoting new tourism activities to replace those that are lost, and implementing health early warning systems and preventive emergency plans.
Note to journalists: The Summary for Policymakers for the IPCC?s ?Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability? was launched in Brussels on 6 April and posted as a PDF at www.ipcc.ch together with a webcast of that day?s press conference. ?Chapter 12: Europe? will also be posted WHEN or can be obtained from the press officers below.
The IPCC will brief the press about climate change impacts on the European Alps at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 10 April at 12h. For more information, please contact Michael Williams at +41-79-409-1528 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Robert Bisset at +33-6-2272-5842 or email@example.com; or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, at +254-2-623084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.