Climate Change Behind Severe Weather, Economic Losses, EU Report Says

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By Stephen Gardner

Europe is increasingly seeing the effects of global warming in more frequent extreme weather, changing ecosystems and rising economic and health costs, according to a report the European Environment Agency published Jan. 25.

Global warming’s greatest effects are being felt in Europe’s Mediterranean regions, with more heat waves, droughts and forest fires, declining crop yields and higher heat-related premature mortality, the report said.

In addition, coastal areas and floodplains in western Europe are suffering more flooding, and Alpine regions are seeing shrinking glaciers, the upward migration of plants and animals, and reduced revenues from ski tourism because of decreasing snow cover and earlier melting of snow.

Economic costs from “climate-related extreme events” in the 28 European Union countries and non-EU states Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have amounted to 400 billion euros ($430 billion) since 1980, according to the report.

“European land temperatures in the decade 2006–2015 were around 1.5 °C [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than the pre-;industrial level, and they are projected to continue increasing by more than the global average temperature increase,” said the report. “Europe has experienced several extreme summer heat waves since 2003, which have led to high mortality and economic impacts. Heat waves of a similar or larger magnitude are projected to occur as often as every two years in the second half of the 21st century under a high emissions scenario. The impacts will be particularly strong in southern Europe.”

Adaptation Planning

The report showed the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and “ensuring that we have the right adaptation strategies and policies in place to reduce the risks from current and project climate extremes,” EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, published a climate adaptation strategy in 2013 that called on EU countries to prepare national adaptation plans, and said if national plans were not in place by 2017, or if the plans were insufficient, legislation could be proposed to make the drawing up of national strategies mandatory.

In 2013, the commission said 15 EU countries had national adaptation strategies, most of which were in preliminary form.

As of May 2016, this number had risen to 20, with Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovenia still lacking a plan, according to the EEA report.

The commission is expected to publish an evaluation of its 2013 climate adaptation strategy, including possible legislative measures on planning for the impacts of climate change, during the second half of 2017.

The EEA report on the impacts of climate change in Europe is the fourth in a series of reports published every four years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The EEA report on climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016 is available at

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