||About Climate Change
Over the past 100 years global mean temperature has increased by 0.7 °C and in Europe by about 1.0 °C. Temperatures are projected to increase further by 1.4 to 5.8°C by 2100, with larger increases in Eastern and Southern Europe. Recent declarations of scientists say the year 2009 will be one of the top-five warmest on record. There is numerous evidence that most of this warming can be attributed to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and aerosols by human activities. Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests to make farmland are increasing the levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. These gases trap heat that is radiated from the earth surface and prevent it escaping to space, causing "Global warming". Read the Key Messages by the European Environmental Agency.
Many experts believe that global warming must be limited to no more than 2 °C above the industrial temperature if we are to prevent climate change from having irreversible impacts. But the scientific consensus is that the world's average temperature could rise by as much as 6 °C above today's levels in the course of this century, if no further action is taken. Scientists warm that even if we stop emitting carbon dioxide now, the climate would not go back to normal in 100 or 200 years. Read article
Antarctica, in particular, has undergone a significant warming over the past 50 years. Read article
Global warming has become a political issue since the middle of the nineteenth century when Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies and a leading climate modeler, testified before the U.S. Congress that the greenhouse effect was changing the climate. Ever since, studies have shown the impact of human activity on the environment and underlined the specific substances that jeopardize the ecosystem. The climatologist now urges the U.S president-elect Barack Obama to act quickly on climate change. See the interview
Human activities that contribute to climate change include in particular deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil and natural gas) and other fuels which leads to the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the most important greenhouse gases. Other important contributors to the recent climate change are methane, nitrous oxide and fluorocarbons. Most of them, and especially increased concentrations of CO2 related to the burning of fossil fuels in automobiles or power plants for example, have great consequences on the Earth’s ecosystem. It is also in our daily behaviour that we impact the environment, by using more water than needed, throwing out our wastes without recycling, using our cars without real need. Everyone has his share in the environmental pressure, you can calculate your carbon footprint.
(Source: IPCC AR4)
From the origins of climate change, one can identify many observed changes on the environment. The international forum responsible for assessing the scientific evidence of climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up in 1988. The IPCC is a joint initiative of the United Nations Environment Porgramme and the World Meteorological Organization. It identifies warming-increased floods and drought, rising sea levels, spread of deadly diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, increasing numbers of violent storms threaten to be more severe and imminent than previously believed. The impact of global warming is felt, in particular in extreme temperature areas like the Arctic, where the average annual temperature has increased approximately four times as much as average annual temperatures around the rest of the globe.
Download the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. Find report in other languages here
(Source: IPCC 4AR)
Impacts and Vulnerabilities
Anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases perturb the global climate system, resulting in an increase of global mean temperature, changes in weather and precipitation patterns and increased climate variability resulting in higher frequency of extreme weather. Increased CO2 concentration results in ocean acidification, which has significant negative consequences for marine biology. Particularly vulnerable ecosystems include coral reef, Artic ecosystems, Alpine ecosystems and tropical forests. A global mean temperature increase exceeding 2-3°C would increase the risk of extinction for about 20-30% of species and have widespread adverse effects on biodiversity and ecosystems.
(Source: IPCC AR4)
Scientific Facts in the EU
On Wednesday 21 May, the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on Climate Change (CLIM) presented the Interim Report reported by MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz (PPE-ED, DE) on the scientific facts of climate change. The plenary adopted the draft interim report 'The scientific facts of climate change: findings and recommendations for decision-making' with a broad majority: 566 votes in favour, 61 against and 24 abstentions. See the report in other European languages here.
Doing so, the European Parliament acknowledges the sentiment of a majority of Europeans who see climate change as the most pressing political issue of the moment. This has been made evident in a European Barometer entitled ' Attitudes of European citizens toward the environment' available here. See the EU Environmental Indicators 2008. The European Environment Agency assesses environmental progress in 53 countries on biodiversity, water, waste and climate change. See Europe's Environment - the Fourth Report (in all languages)
Cost of Inaction
Combating climate change is likely to mean significant adjustments to our lifestyles and consumption patterns. These changes, however, also need to be compatible with sustainable development and jobs. In any case, the cost of this change is limited compared to the cost of the damage climate change will cause if we take no action.
The Stern Review on the economics of climate change, commissioned by the UK government and published in October 2006, said that managing global warming and thus reducing GHG emissions would cost +/- 1% of global GDP every year, while inaction could reduce global GDP by at least 5% a year, and in the long term by possibly as much as 20% or more. Around 0.5% of total global GDP would be required to invest in a low-carbon economy for the period 2013-2030, leading to a 0.19% decrease in global GDP growth per year up to 2030 (only a fraction of the expected annual GDP growth rate of 2.8%).
Moreover, this does not take into account the value of other benefits such as reduced air pollution, associated health benefits, security of energy supply at predictable prices and improved competitiveness through innovation.
A Mc Kinsey report released on January 26, 2008 says it is possible to maintain global warming below 2°C at an overall cost of less than 1% of global GDP if swift action is taken across different sectors. The consulting firm estimates that €530 billion will need to be invested across the world by 2020 to reduce emissions to 70% below "business as usual" and avoid dangerous levels of global warming. Overall, €810 billion would need to be invested by 2030 to to avoid such a scenario, the report adds. Read the article
Read the report
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Source: Euractiv, Europa, Europarl, UNFCCC, EEA