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Alarming report on climate change: Is Europe ready?

Climate change is continuing globally and in Europe, according to a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), an agency of the European Commission. The report was released yesterday (26 January) at a policy briefing arranged by the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels.

Humans have significantly changed the climate and increased the magnitude of many extreme weather events, summaries the report. In the last years new record levels of some climatic variables have been recorded,  such as temperature, global sea level and winter Arctic sea ice extent.

The indicator-based report, the fourth since 2004, is unusually comprehensive and covers the impacts of climate change on the environment, ecosystems, society and economy. It aims at providing evidence-based knowledge for policy-making in the EU. The report is heavy but readable and understandable despite its scientific focus.

In preparing the report, EEA cooperated with the European Joint Research Centre, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organisation (WHO). 60 experts contributed to the report and it was subjected to three review rounds. Those who doubt climate change, as the new American president, will not get away easily.

By coincidence, the well-known journalist Thomas Friedman, himself an advocate for taking climate change seriously and acting before the change becomes unmanageable, wrote yesterday (26 January) in The New York Times:

“Trump’s argument that we must ignore climate science because steadily upgrading clean standards for our power, auto and construction companies kill jobs is pure nonsense”.

He referred to the fact that California has some of the highest clean energy standards for cars, building and electric utilities in America. “Those standards have kept California one of the world’s leaders in clean-tech companies and start-ups, and its jobs and overall economy have grown steadily since 2010.”

Jos Delbeke, Director General for Climate Action at the European Commission called the report an incredible piece of work. “We cannot lose sight of the future,” he said. “We are facing the impacts of climate change in Europe. We have passed an increase in temperature of 1 degrees C and moving fast to 2 degrees C. When 2 degrees C becomes a reality, adaptation becomes necessary.”

He underlined the importance of adaptation measures on local level and mentioned the EU Covenant of Mayors Climate & Energy, a global initiative of cities and local governments leading in the fight against climate change.  The European Commission is using the structural funds to invest in climate adaptation projects and to mainstream all projects in that direction.

Despite Trump’s decisions at the very start of his presidency – preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from granting new contracts and allowing plans for building new oil pipelines to go ahead – Delbeke seemed cautiously optimistic and claimed that Trump’s agenda will be determined by the business dynamics in the US where more jobs are created in the renewal energy sector and coal as fossil fuel will be taken over by natural gas.

Hans Bruynicnkx, executive director of EEA, presented the main findings of the report which left hardly anyone unmoved. The temperature has risen well above preindustrial levels, resulting in extreme weather fluctuations, unusually hot but also rainy days in all parts of Europe, flooding, water shortage in particular the Mediterranean region, and risks of forest fires all over Europe.

The negative impacts are manifold: fatalities as a result of life-threating heat waves and floods, birds and butterflies migrating northward, yields of staple crops decreasing, the spread of infectious deceases, and the need for more energy for cooling. “

“Different zones in Europe are affected differently,” he said, “with most challenges in the Mediterranean region. “But the impacts of climate change will be felt across all Europe.  Our continent is also vulnerable for climate change outside Europe. We cannot afford not to act now.”

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times

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