Europe must do more against ‘catastrophic’ climate risks: EU

Copenhagen: Europe could suffer “catastrophic” consequences from climate change if it fails to take urgent and decisive action to adapt to risks, a new EU analysis warned.

Areas in southern Europe are most at risk, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said in its first report on the risks the continent faces from climate change, driven by human burning of fossil fuels.

The dangers include fires, water shortages and their effects on agricultural production, while low-lying coastal regions face threats of flooding, erosion and saltwater intrusion.

“Many of these risks have already reached critical levels and could become catastrophic without urgent and decisive action,” the agency said.

That doesn’t mean northern Europe is spared the negative impact, as floods in Germany and forest fires in Sweden have demonstrated in recent years.

“Extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and flooding, as experienced in recent years, will worsen in Europe even under optimistic global warming scenarios and affect living conditions throughout the continent,” the EEA warned.

“These events are the new normal,” EEA director Leena Yla-Mononen told a press briefing ahead of the report’s release.

“It should be the wake-up call. The final wake-up call,” she added.

The report lists 36 risks related to climate in Europe, 21 of which demand more immediate action and eight were “particularly urgent.”
At the top of the list were risks to ecosystems, mainly relating to coastal and marine ones.

For instance, the combination of heat waves as well as acidification and oxygen depletion of the seas and other human-caused factors such as pollution and eutrophication — meaning an excess of nutrients which collapses aquatic ecosystems — as well as fishing threaten marine ecosystems, the report noted.

“This can result in substantial biodiversity loss, including mass mortality events, and declines in ecosystem services,” it said.