Experts warn that the south of the continent will be a "critical point", one of the areas that will suffer the most from the consequences of climate change. "Climate data released in recent years emphasize how urgent it is to mitigate and adapt to climate change," explains Hans-Martin Füssel, coordinator of the research.
The southern regions are already experiencing a greater increase in maximum temperatures and lower levels of precipitation, as well as a decrease in river flow. The combination of these factors significantly increases the occurrence of droughts - the report points to northern Spain as a risk area - which will translate into damage to crops, deterioration of biodiversity and a greater risk of forest fires.
Those responsible for the study urge governments and community institutions to adopt more effective and flexible policies and strategies to adapt to this new reality. They point out that the success of these measures will be crucial to mitigate the impact of climate change on the health of European citizens, as well as on the continent's economy. "An adapted management implies plans that adjust to these changing circumstances", explains André Jol, head of the vulnerability and adaptation group of the EEA, "and that takes into account the uncertainty about the future and is constantly updated with new information based on monitoring and evaluation ".
Effects on health and the economy
Among these effects are heat waves and changes in the distribution of infectious diseases. In Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Greece and Cyprus, an increase in mortality related to high temperatures is expected. The spread of insects, such as ticks and other disease carriers (such as the Asian tiger mosquito) will increase the risk of contracting diseases such as transmitted encephalitis, West Nile virus, or dengue. On the other hand, the number of floods is expected to increase, which over the past decade have already caused millions of injuries, deaths and illnesses across Europe.
The effects of climate change will also take their toll on the pockets of Europeans and on the community coffers. According to data managed by the EEA, extreme weather-related events have cost more than 400,000 million euros in Europe since 1980. In Spain the figure rises to almost 1,000 million a year and forecasts say that the damage in the region Mediterranean are the ones that will increase the most in the next decade. Estimates for 2050 also speak of increases in water demand and energy consumption, especially in summer.
The report also recalls that the effects of climate change outside the community borders will have consequences within it, due to migratory phenomena, geopolitical instability and threats to security. "We are now more aware of Europe's vulnerability to climate-related events outside Europe," concludes Füssel.
Impact on biodiversity
The report details that numerous species of animals and plants are experiencing changes in their life cycles and in their migratory patterns. In Spain, some insects such as the honey bee (Apis mellifera) are anticipating their appearance each year, a phenomenon related to increasingly warmer springs. In the Pyrenees, beeches (Fagus sylvatica) appear today at altitudes 70 meters higher than in 1940. In addition, changes in ecosystems are helping some invasive species to consolidate into new habitats.
Rising sea levels make coastal areas and floodplains "hot spots" by increasing the risk of flooding. Marine species, including key populations for the fishing sector, are also increasingly migrating north, and ocean acidification threatens to create "dead areas" off European coastlines.
In this context, the report, prepared in collaboration with other community agencies, calls for greater coherence in communication between different political and government spheres, a more flexible management of the environment and a boost to the development of technological solutions. On the other hand, the researchers point out that the improvement in the measurement tools would help to have a better capacity to assess risks.