In Europe climate change affects all regions but in an unequal way. Its consequences range from increase in temperatures and increased risk of desertification to higher annual rainfall and flood risks.
The impact observed by the European Environment Agency spans from economic areas such as tourism and energy; to the environment, for example the loss of biodiversity or forest fires; or to agriculture -reduction of crop yields, increased demand for water- and human health -mortality due to heat waves, damage from violent storms-.
The specificities of climate change in Europe
As a consequence of climate change in Europe, specifically in the Arctic, the increase in temperature is well above the world average, which is why the reduction of the ice floe (floating ice layer) of the Arctic Sea, reduction of ‘Indlandsis’ (inner ice layer) of Greenland, and ‘permafrost’ (permanently frozen soil layer) pose an increased risk of biodiversity loss. All these effects translate into sustenance risks for the local population.
The subarctic region has recorded the increase of the intense precipitations, the reduction of the snow and the ice, the increase of the rains and the flow of the rivers. Forests grow faster and have a higher risk of forest pests. Winter storms become more damaging. These changes result in a higher crop yield. Less energy is needed for heating and opportunities to use hydroelectric power increase. Summer tourism also grows.
As for the mountain areas, the increase in temperature is above the European average. There are fewer glaciers and they are smaller. There is a displacement of plants and animals to higher altitude zones, and the risk of species extinction as well as the risk of forest pests increases. The chances of rockfalls and landslides also raise. In this context, hydroelectric power could be affected. The main economic impact in these areas is the decline in ski tourism.
With regard to the Mediterranean region, the period of extreme heat multiplies, rainfall and river flow are reduced, which increases the risk of droughts, and with it the risk of biodiversity loss and forest fires. As a consequence, more water is needed for agriculture because crop yields are lower. Livestock farming and energy production become more difficult. In addition, more energy is needed for cooling. In this sense, most economic sectors are impacted.
In the Atlantic region, the most notable effect is the multiplication of intense rains and the consequent increase in the flow of rivers, which directly impacts the risk of flooding. Thus the risk of damage associated to storms in winter increases and bad weather happens more frequently. From the economic standpoint, less energy is needed for heating.
Climate change in Europe in the continental region results in a proliferation of extreme weather events and the reduction of rainfall in summer. The risk of rivers flooding and forest fires is greater. In this area the forests lose value. Cooling requires more energy.
In coastal areas and seas, climate change in Europe is evidenced by rising sea levels and sea surface temperature, in addition to ocean acidification. There is a migration of marine species to the north, as well as changes in the phytoplankton communities. Dead marine areas increase. All these factors aggravate the risks and possibilities for fishing. Increased risk of water origin diseases is also detected.
Most of the effects of climate change have been negative, however, in some regions there have also been changes such as reduced demand for heating or some advantages for agriculture in northern Europe. The data are drawn from the report of the European Environment Agency ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016’.