Climate change in Europe

Climate change in Europe describes the climate change related issues in Europe. This includes the climate politics, contribution in the global warming and the influence of the global warming in Europe. According to international climate experts global temperature rise should not exceed 2 °C to prevent the most dangerous consequences of the climate change.[1] It was also made essential to halve greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide by 2050 compared to the shocking 1990 levels. Other countries such as Brazil and China will also reduce emissions by between 80% and 95% by 2050. It is estimated that from the now living persons alive are 70% in the year 2050. Emission reduction means development and implementation of new energy technology solutions. Some people consider that the technology revolution has already started in Europe since the markets of the renewable technology have annually grown.[2]

In only the last hundred years there has been a recorded increase in temperature of 1 degrees in Europe. Although this seems minuscule, it has had huge repercussions on the global economy and in agriculture. Furthermore, “the IPCC report expects an increase of the mean global temperature by 1.8◦C to 4.0◦C” [3]

European Union climate chief is Connie Hedegaard since 10 February 2010.


Climate change affects both people and the environment in the world as well as in Europe. Human-induced climate change has the potential to alter the prevalence and severity of extreme weather like storms, floods, droughts, heat waves and cold waves. These extreme weather changes may increase the severity of diseases in animals as well as humans. The heat waves will increase the forest fires. Experts have warned that the climate change may increase the number of global climate refugees from 150 million in 2008 to 800 million in future. International agreement of refugees does not recognize the climate change refugees.

The summer of 2003 was probably the hottest in Europe since at latest ad 1500, and unusually large numbers of heat-related deaths were reported in France, Germany and Italy. According to Nature (journal) it is very likely that the heat wave was human induced by greenhouse gases.[4]

According to European Environment Agency (2012) the average temperature over land in Europe in the last decade was 1.3 °C warmer than the pre-industrial level, which makes it the warmest decade on record. Exceptional melting in the Greenland ice sheet was recorded in the summer of 2012. Arctic sea ice extent and volume have been decreasing much faster than projected.[5]

A study of future changes in flood, heat-waves, and drought impacts for 571 European cities, using climate model runs from the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) found that heat-wave days increase across all cities, but especially in southern Europe, whilst the greatest heatwave temperature increases are expected in central European cities. For the low impact scenario drought conditions intensify in southern European cities while river flooding worsens in northern European cities. However, the high impact scenario projects that most European cities will see increases in both drought and river flood risks. Over 100 cities are particularly vulnerable to two or more climate impacts.[6]

Observed impacts

Record meteorological events In Europe.[7]
When Where What Cost
2003Europehottest summer in at least 500 years70,000 deaths
2000England and Waleswettest autumn on record since 1766£1.3 billion
2007England and Waleswettest July on record since 1766£3 billion
2007Greecehottest summer since 1891wildfires
2010Russiahottest summer since 1500$15 billion. 55,000 deaths
2011Francehottest and driest spring since 1880grain harvest down by 12%
2012Arcticsea ice minimum
Costs are estimates

In the absence of climate change, extreme heat waves in Europe would be expected to occur only once every several hundred years. In addition to hydrological changes, grain crops mature earlier at higher temperature, which may reduce the critical growth period and lead to lower grain yields The Russian heat wave in 2010 caused grain harvest down by 25 percent, government ban wheat exports, and losses were 1% of GDP. Russian heat wave 2010 estimate for deaths is 55,000.[7]

The Arctic sea ice reached a record minimum in September 2012. It halved the area of ice covering the Arctic Ocean in summers over the last 30 years.[7]



The annual CO2 emissions from coal were in the OECD Europe during 2005-2008 on average equal to the year 2000. There are however country specific differences. During 1990-2008 emissions from coal were the highest in Europe in Russia, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and United Kingdom. Among the top 20 coal emission countries only four countries have increased their annual average emissions from coal during 2005-2008 compared to the year 1990, namely Turkey (181%), Finland ( 121%), Italy (115%) and Greece (108%).

Many Eastern European countries, including East Germany, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Estonia and Hungary, and also United Kingdom, have significantly declined their coal dependency from 1990 to 2000. However, the statistics of IEA gives no evidence of decline of coal dependency during 2000-2008 in Europe. Belgium is the only European country among the top 20 countries that have clearly declined their climate change emissions from coal during 2000-2008.

Annual CO2 emissions from coal in Europe (Mt) (IAE)
Population 1990 2000 2000-4 2005-8= # # / 2000 # / 1990 # / capita
4Ukraine46.3283116127139120%49 %3.0
5UK61.4238138144147106%62 %2.4
10Spain45.67481797086%95 %1.5
13Greece11.23337383696%108 %3.2
15Bulgaria7.637252829116%80 %3.9
16Netherlands16.432293230103%95 %1.8
18Belgium10.73929231861%45 %1.6
TOP 20730.42,8271,9201,9351,970103%70%
Mt = million tonnes of CO2 # = 2005-2008

Top 20 countries and the number order based on emissions in 2008
2000-2004 and 2005-2008 = average annual emission


There is in place national legislation, international agreements and EU directives. The EU directive 2001/77/EU promotes renewable energy in electricity production. The climate sub programme will provide €864 million in co-financing for climate projects between 2014 and 2020. Its main objectives are to contribute to the shift towards a low carbon and climate resilient economy and improve the development, implementation and enforcement of EU climate change policies and laws.[8]

Stern report 2006

British government and economist Nicholas Stern published the Stern report in 2006. The Review states that climate change is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen, presenting a unique challenge for economics. The Review provides prescriptions including environmental taxes to minimize the economic and social disruptions. The Stern Review's main conclusion is that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs of not acting.[9] The Review points to the potential impacts of climate change on water resources, food production, health, and the environment. According to the Review, without action, the overall costs of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) each year, now and forever. Including a wider range of risks and impacts could increase this to 20% of GDP or more.

No-one can predict the consequences of climate change with complete certainty; but we now know enough to understand the risks. The review leads to a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs.[10]

EU energy plan 2008

In the end of 2008, the parliament of the EU approved the climate and energy plan including:[2]

- 20% emission cut of climate gases from 1990 to 2020

- 20% increase in the share of renewable energy from 1990 to 2020

- 20% increase of the energy efficiency from 1990 to 2020.

Paris Climate Agreement 2016

On April 22, 2016 the Paris Climate Accords were signed by all but three countries around the world. The conference to talk about this document was held in Paris, France. This put Europe in the epicenter of talks about the environment and climate change. The EU was the first major economy that decided to submit its intended contribution to the new agreement in March of 2015. The EU ratified the Paris Agreement on October 5th, 2015.[11]

In these talks the countries agreed that they all had a long-term goal of keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. They agreed that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible, and recognize that this will take longer for developing countries. On the subject of transparency the countries agreed that they would meet every five years to set ambitious goals, report their progress to the public and each other, and track progress for their long-term goals throughout a transparent and accountable system.[12]

The countries recognized the importance of non-party stakeholders to be involved in this process. Cities, regions, and local authorities are encouraged to uphold and promote regional and international cooperation.[13]


The critics include that European companies, like in other OECD countries, have moved the energy intensive, polluting and climate gas emitting industry to Asia and South America. In respect to climate change there are no harmless areas. Carbon emissions from all countries are equal. The agreements exclude significant factors like deforestation, aviation and tourism, the actual end consumption of energy and the history of emissions. Negotiations are country oriented but the economical interests are in conflict between the energy producers, consumers and the environment.


  1. Carter, J.G. 2011, "Climate change adaptation in European cities", Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 193-198
  2. 1 2 Ilmastonmuutos otettiin yhä vakavammin; Yle 30.12.2008 (in Finnish)
  3. C.Lippert; T.KrimlyJ ;Aurbacher,2009,A Ricardian analysis of the impact of climate change on agriculture in Germany, pg1
  4. Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003 Stott, Stone & Allen, Nature 432, 610-614 (2 December 2004)
  5. Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012 EEA 2012
  6. Guerreiro, Selma B.; Dawson, Richard J.; Kilsby, Chris; Lewis, Elizabeth; Ford, Alistair (2018). "Future heat-waves, droughts and floods in 571 European cities". Environmental Research Letters. 13 (3): 034009. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aaaad3. ISSN 1748-9326.
  7. 1 2 3 Why a 4 degree centrigrade warmer world must be avoided November 2012 World Bank
  9. Stern, N. (2006). "Summary of Conclusions". Executive summary (short) (PDF). Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (pre-publication edition). HM Treasury. Retrieved 2011-04-28.
  10. Sir Nicholas Stern: Stern Review : The Economics of Climate Change, Executive Summary,10/2006 Archived September 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
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