The consequences that climate change is expected to have on EU countries between now and 2050 are grim. While the impact of climate change is predicted to vary among regions and between seasons, the European Commission, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other institutions posit that no country in the EU will be untouched by its effects.
In a recent video released by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), which is based on the results of recent studies and the IPCC’s 2021 report on the physical basis of climate change, the ICTP highlights expected variations in temperatures, precipitation, and extreme weather events between now and 2050 in the EU. The ICTP delineates how southern European countries will be hit the hardest in the summertime, as they will experience a decrease in rainfall and greater evaporation rates, which will lead to a drying out of the soil. Extreme heat waves will also increase in frequency and intensity.
In the winter, climate change is predicted to impact countries in Northeast Europe the most. Snow will melt more quickly, with warming being felt the most in mountainous regions and at higher altitudes. Winter sports will have to be reimagined and flooding will also likely become an issue, as Northeast Europe will face more frequent rain during the winter.
Climate change will also cause a rise in sea levels and a rise in flooding, especially in areas that do not have proper sewage systems in place that can adequately handle extreme rain and excess water. For example, in 2011 rain in Copenhagen flooded houses and damaged the city’s overall infrastructure because their sewage systems were not able to cope with extreme rainfall. This will be especially problematic for poor individuals who are more likely to settle in cheaper areas that are more prone to flooding and cannot afford insurance that protects their homes.
But the effects of climate change between now and 2050 go beyond just physical effects. Pertinent links have been found between high daily temperatures and psychiatric unrest, with incidents of domestic violence consistently increasing in Madrid when the temperature goes above 34ºC. On an infrastructure level, certain locations in the EU will particularly struggle to deal with the effects of climate change. For example, in Rome and other Mediterranean cities, the heat will become so piercing that traditional architecture systems that are dependent on natural ventilation will no longer function. Additionally, migration, which is consistently a controversial topic in the EU, is expected to drastically increase due to climate-related disasters. This will likely be especially problematic in areas like Southern Europe that will already be facing resource scarcity due to decreased water supply and changes in the soil that will lead to an inability to grow numerous stable crops like wheat.
On its webpage dedicated to the consequences of climate change, the European Commission also delineates how climate change will negatively impact energy systems, as climate change is expected to reduce demand for heating in Northern and Northwestern Europe and increase energy demand for cooling in Southern Europe, which will yield more extreme peaks in electricity demand in the summer. Moreover, climate change will be economically devastating, as buildings and infrastructure are destroyed by floods and storms and sectoral production shifts occur as agriculture and tourism are affected by rising temperatures. On a social level, the European Commission notes that climate change will pose a danger to the health of individuals; heat-related mortality and morbidity will increase, there will be an increase in the emergence of animal diseases and air quality will worsen.
Therefore, the creation and implementation of proper adaptation strategies in the EU are pivotal. Even if necessary, climate change mitigation practices are followed and countries meet their Paris agreement targets, a rise in the average global temperature will still occur and the negative effects of climate change will still be felt, albeit to a lesser level. On February 24, 2021, the EU adopted its strategy for adaptation to climate change, and its strategy has four main objectives: to make adaptation smarter, swifter, and more systemic, and to step up international action on adaptation to climate change. Examples of some of the commitments the European Commission makes in this strategy include that it will: “propose-nature based solutions for carbon removals, including accounting and certification in upcoming carbon farming initiatives”, “step up support for planning and implementation of local adaptation and launch an adaptation support facility under the EU Covenant of Mayors”, “upgrade adaptation monitoring, reporting and evaluation by using a harmonized framework of standards and indicators”, “further develop the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities for climate adaptation” and “establish a European climate and health observatory”. The EU also created a website called Climate-ADAPT that promotes sharing adaptation knowledge to build a climate-resilient Europe and outlines the importance of just resilience and nature-based solutions when creating policies related to climate adaptation.
However, adequate funding and investment will be necessary for the EU to develop infrastructure and implement solutions that are capable of adapting to climate change. One primary resource that will be useful in companies and organizations acquiring the funding they need to develop sustainable infrastructure and adapt to climate change risks is the Horizon Europe fund, which will provide €368.3 million in funding during 2021-2023 to support over 100 European regions and communities in becoming climate resilient by 2030. Other useful financial funds that will assist in funding adaptation efforts include the LIFE Programme, the Cohesion Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, Invest EU, and the Just Transition Fund.
Given the rising prevalence of extreme weather events and extreme heat in Europe, it is crucial that the EU follows through with the adaptation strategies it has put in place in order to prevent unnecessary political, economic, and social costs.
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This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard European Union Manager Brittany Demogenes
Image Courtesy of: https://www.eea.europa.eu/signals/signals-2018-content-list/infographic/climate-change-impacts-in-europe/view