Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Other reports in this collection


  • The adaptation potential of socioeconomic systems in Europe is relatively high because of economic conditions (high gross national product and stable growth); a stable population (with the capacity to move within the region); and well-developed political, institutional, and technological support systems. However, adaptation potential for natural systems generally is low. [very high confidence]

  • Present-day weather conditions have effects on natural, social, and economic systems in Europe in ways that reveal sensitivities and vulnerabilities to climate change in these systems. Climate change may aggravate such effects. [very high confidence, well-established evidence]

  • Vulnerability to climate change in Europe differs substantially between subregions; it is particularly high in the south and in the European Arctic. This has important equity implications. More marginal and less wealthy areas will be less able to adapt. [very high confidence, established but incomplete evidence]

  • Water resources and their management in Europe are under pressure now, and these pressures are likely to be exacerbated by climate change [high confidence]. Flood hazard is likely to increase across much of Europe, except where snowmelt peak has been reduced, and the risk of water shortage is projected to increase particularly in southern Europe [medium to high confidence]. Climate change is likely to widen water resource differences between northern and southern Europe. [high confidence, well-established evidence]

  • Soil properties will deteriorate under warmer and drier climate scenarios in southern Europe. The magnitude of this effect will vary markedly between geographic locations and may be modified by changes in precipitation. [medium confidence, established but incomplete evidence]

  • Natural ecosystems will change as a result of increasing temperature and atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2). Permafrost will decline, trees and shrubs will encroach northern tundra, and broad-leaved trees may encroach coniferous forests. Net primary productivity in ecosystems is likely to increase (also as a result of nitrogen deposition). Diversity in nature reserves is under threat from rapid change. Loss of important habitats (wetlands, tundra, and isolated habitats) would threaten some species (including rare/endemic species and migratory birds). Faunal shifts as a result of ecosystem changes are expected in marine, aquatic, and terrestrial ecosystems. [high confidence, established but incomplete evidence]

  • In mountain regions, higher temperatures will lead to an upward shift of biotic and cryospheric zones and perturb the hydrological cycle. There will be redistribution of species, with, in some instances, a threat of extinction. [high confidence]

  • Timber harvest will increase in commercial forests in northern Europe [medium confidence, established but incomplete evidence], but reductions are likely in the Mediterranean, with increased drought and fire risk. [high confidence, well-established evidence]

  • Agricultural yields will increase for most crops as a result of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. This effect would be counteracted by the risk of water shortage in southern and eastern Europe and by shortening of growth duration in many grain crops as a result of increasing temperature. Northern Europe is likely to experience overall positive effects, whereas some agricultural production systems in southern Europe may be threatened. [medium confidence, established but incomplete evidence]

  • Changes in fisheries and aquaculture production from climate change embrace faunal shifts affecting freshwater and marine fish and shellfish biodiversity. These changes will be aggravated by unsustainable exploitation levels and environmental change. [high confidence]

  • The insurance industry faces potentially costly climate change impacts through the medium of property damage, but there is great scope for adaptive measures if initiatives are taken soon. [high confidence]

  • Transport, energy, and other industries will face changing demand and market opportunities. Concentration of industry on the coast exposes it to sea-level rise and extreme events, necessitating protection or removal. [high confidence]

  • Recreational preferences are likely to change with higher temperatures. Outdoor activities will be stimulated in northern Europe, but heat waves are likely to reduce the traditional peak summer demand at Mediterranean holiday destinations, and less reliable snow conditions could impact adversely on winter tourism. [medium confidence]

  • A range of risks is posed for human health through increased exposure to heat episodes (exacerbated by air pollution in urban areas), extension of some vector-borne diseases, and coastal and riverine flooding. Based on current evidence, climate change would result in a reduction in wintertime deaths, at least in temperate countries. [medium confidence]

  • In coastal areas, the risk of flooding, erosion, and wetland loss will increase substantially—with implications for human settlement, industry, tourism, agriculture, and coastal natural habitats. Southern Europe appears to be more vulnerable to these changes, although the North Sea coast already has high exposure to flooding. [high confidence]

The foregoing conclusions are broadly consistent with those expressed in the IPCC Special Report on Regional Impacts of Climate Change (1998) and the Second Assessment Report (1996). This survey incorporates much more information than previously reported, corroborating previous conclusions (with which it is broadly consistent) but extending knowledge into other sectors. It is more specific about subregional effects and includes new information concerning adaptive capacity.

height="1" vspace="12">

Other reports in this collection

IPCC Homepage