Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

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13.4. Synthesis 13.4.1. Key Impacts

Two important messages emerge from this review:

  • Potential impacts on key resources (land, ecosystems, and particularly water) are significant.
  • Even in prosperous Europe, adverse climate change impacts may aggravate equity issues.

Climate change in Europe will involve losses and gains to the natural resource base; in some cases, these changes have begun. These impacts will vary substantially from region to region (they will be particularly adverse in the south) and within regions, from sector to sector as well as within sectors. The significance of these effects, however, will depend to a considerable extent on nonclimatic drivers of environmental change, socioeconomic development, and policy evolution within Europe. The most significant impacts (and opportunities) that will require greatest attention with respect to policies of response may be summarized in general terms as follows (a fuller precis appears in the Executive Summary at the beginning of this chapter). Climate changes as characterized by the scenarios described in Chapter 3 of this report, if not adequately responded to through effective adaptation and policy development, would lead in Europe to:

  • Increased pressures on water resources, particularly in the south
  • Aggravated flood hazard
  • Deterioration in soil quality
  • Altered natural eosystems, with loss of some habitats and potential loss of species
  • Increased productivity of northern commercial forests but reductions in the south
  • Increased forest fire risk
  • Positive effects on agriculture in the north but broadly negative effects in the south
  • Altered fisheries potential
  • Increased property damage
  • Relatively minor effects on the transport, energy, and manufacturing sectors, some of which may be positive (though substantial effects may derive from policies of mitigation that are necessary to reduce impacts elsewhere)
  • Changing tourist potential
  • A range of human health implications
  • Increased risk of flooding, erosion, wetland loss, and degradation in coastal zones
  • Upward shift of biotic zones and snowlines in mountain regions.

In general, more adverse effects may be expected to occur in regions of Europe that are economically less developed because adaptive capacity will be less developed there. These areas would include more marginal areas of the EU and regions outside the EU such as the Balkans.

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