What climate change means

Europe’s Mediterranean states are among the countries that will feel the greatest economic effects of climate change over the next few decades if immediate, drastic action is not taken, according to a European Environment Agency report. Climate change will result in the loss of plant and fish species, coastal territory and an increase in demand for energy. Even tourism, the south’s flagship industry, will be affected in the long term as rising summer temperatures will push tourists northward and move the south’s tourist season to spring or autumn. The erosion of Europe’s coastline will cost an estimated 18 billion euros a year. According to the study, the effects of climate change on the continent’s ecosystems and social fabric will be large-scale. Forests. Rising temperatures will result in the death of forests in Southern and Central Europe. Lower humidity (due to less rain) could reduce forests’ ability to reproduce themselves and, by extension, raise the risk of fire. (Forest fires in France in 2003 cost that country an estimated 179 million euros.) Higher temperatures in Northern Europe will lead to an increase in the number of their flora species. A Finnish research institute believes that there will be a 44 percent increase in the number of tree species in the country by 2100. Fishing. Initial research indicates a movement of fish populations toward northern seas, but also the disappearance from southern seas of species such as salmon and cod. In the long term, and in combination with the effects of other factors (such as pollution and effects on the food chain), the fishing of many species will gradually be reduced and eventually become unfeasible. Coasts. Considering that one-third of Europe’s population lives less than 50 kilometers of the sea and 140,000 square kilometers of coast are just a meter above sea level, the effects of climate change are likely to be serious indeed, particularly in countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain, Germany and Italy, where large areas of land are below sea level. Effects will include the erosion of coastlines, the destruction of coastal wetlands and biotopes, increased flooding and storms and the widespread infiltration of seawater into underground water reserves. According to some scenarios, by 2080 some 19,000 square kilometers of Europe’s coastline will have disappeared, affecting about 1.4 million people and costing 18 billion euros annually. Farming. Agriculture comprises a very small sector of the European Union’s GDP, but the report estimates that a reduction in cultivated areas in Mediterranean countries should be taken for granted because of rising temperatures and reduced rainfall as well as the vulnerability of cultivated species to climatic changes. In some countries, by 2080 there could be a 10 percent or more reduction in the amount of farmland. Tourism. Rising temperatures are certain to affect tourists’ choice of southern destinations: As the summers get hotter, the peak tourist season could move to spring or autumn. Warmer climates in Northern Europe could lead to an increase in the number of summer visitors and a reduction in outgoing holiday traffic. Energy. Rising temperatures mean the need for more energy; there will be a higher demand for air conditioning in Northern and Central Europe. By 2080, the demand for energy in Athens during July will have risen by 30 percent. Greenpeace warning for Crete Examples of the effects climate change could have on Greece are included in a report by Greenpeace on the island of Crete, predicting that by 2030 the average temperature on the island will increase by 1.2-1.4 degrees Celsius and the sea level will have risen by 18 centimeters. In 2100, these increases will be 2.1-2.4 degrees and half a meter, respectively. Rainfall levels will have risen by 14.3-23.8 millimeters, but precipitation is expected to be heavier and more irregular in frequency. Summers will be drier and drought more frequent. The greatest effects will be seen in tourism resorts near the coastal zone, particularly in the northern part of the island, which will have to adapt to rising sea levels. Ports will face problems and, as all Crete’s urban centers are built in the coastal zone, steps will have to be taken to protect the infrastructure. The island’s water reserves will suffer losses and soil erosion will increase as farming is abandoned at higher elevations. Finally the gradual increase in temperatures and changes to humidity levels will favor the appearance of new crop diseases with a corresponding effect on the island’s farm production.