Agri Kultuur December / Desember 2018 - Page 32

Hotter climate will cost Europe dear Tim Radford Unrestrained global warming and a hotter climate will cost Europe dear in lives lost and economies squeezed. Even if it’s limited, there’ll be a price to pay. T he continent must brace itself for the big heat: a hotter climate will cost Europe dear if average global temperatures soar by 3°C near the end of the century, when heat extremes could claim an additional 132 000 deaths a year. There will be significant shifts in the times at which seeds sprout, flowers bloom and crops ripen, with big changes in soil water: this is going to affect agricultural productivity. Europe’s arid climate zone is expected to double in area. Labour productivity in some southern European countries could fall by 10 to 15%. As sea levels rise, there could be a five-fold increase in coastal flood damage, to affect more than 2 million people and wreak economic tolls of €60 billion (US$68 bn) a year. Demand for energy to heat homes and offices is likely to fall, but any gains will be wiped out by a rapid rise in energy demand to cool cities and towns. Northern Europe can expect to get wetter, but some parts of southern Europe will, increasingly, face drought and water shortages. As extremes of rainfall increase, swollen rivers could expose three times as many people to inland flooding, and the damage from river floods could rise from €5.3m a year to €17.5m. If, on the other hand, the world keeps the promise it made to itself in Paris in 2015, and contains global warming to 2°C or less by the century’s end, coastal flooding – which already affects 100 000 people and costs €1.25 bn a year – will affect only an estimated 436 000 and total €6 bn a year in annual damage. Grim appraisal But right now the world is on course to tip 3°C by the century’s end, and a new study by the European Commission’s joint research centre has made a sombre assessment of the likely costs. AgriKultuur |AgriCulture Some of the forecasts are not new: researchers have repeatedly examined the impact of climate change on European harvests, and of sea level rise, for instance, on European coastal cities. Terse summary The latest report, labelled with the acronym Peseta III, presents a wider picture of change. It has been four years in the making and is the product of consultation with experts in economics, biology, physics and engineering: its opening abstract says it all in three pithy sentences. “The study assesses how climate change could affect Europe in eleven impact areas. Under a high warming scenario, several climate impacts show a clear geographical north-south 32