Climate Change Impacts

Summary

Driver description
Interactions with the Environment Domain
Interactions within the Social Domain
Interactions with the Economy Domain
Interactions with the Technology Domain
Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Driver description

  • “Climate change in IPCC[1] usage refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” (Ref: CO_1016)
  • “Many changes in climate and its impacts are already visible globally and in Europe, and these are projected to become more pronounced. In Europe, mountain regions, coastal zones and wetlands and the Mediterranean region are particularly vulnerable. Although there are some positive effects, like an increasing potential for agriculture at high latitudes and reduced cold stress to humans, most impacts are adverse.” (Ref: CO_1027)
  • “Scientists warn that climate change may not be a smooth linear process of a world warming gradually and steadily, but rather a series of sudden jolts, like the flips from one stable climate to another, radically different. Ice cores show this happened in the distant past, sometimes in the space of a single decade. The climate can alter very fast; many climatologists say the pace of change is already much faster than they expected ten years ago.” (Ref: CO_0091)
  • “Tackling climate change is of vital importance for the well-being of future generations. In the long run, climate change will lead to an increase in average annual temperatures, alter rainfall quantities and patterns, and raise the sea level and the risk of coastal erosion. In the short and medium term, climate change will increase the occurrence of extreme weather events (storms, heavy rainfall, droughts, peak summer temperatures) which will lead to temporary situations resembling those conditions, which we can expect later this century.” (Ref: CO_1016)
  • “The most severe effects of anthropogenic climate change are expected in the second half of the century.” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “In Southern Europe, climate change is projected to worsen existing conditions through declining precipitation and drought.” (Ref: CO_0016)
  • “Regions subject to the highest pressure are generally located in the South and East of Europe, the whole of Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta and Hungary, as well as most of Romania and southern parts of France. This situation is mostly due to changes in precipitation and an increase in temperature, which have an impact on vulnerable economic sectors. River floods also contribute to the overall effect in Hungary and Romania.” (Ref: CO_0016)
  • “The Arctic region is also likely to be seriously affected, since it is warming more rapidly, and larger changes are projected than in many other areas of the world.” (Ref: CO_1027)
  • “The risk of heat waves is expected to increase. (...) By 2050, under a relatively high emissions scenario, the temperatures experienced during the heatwave of 2003 could be an average summer.” (Ref: CO_2024)
  • “Projections of climate change and its impacts beyond about 2050 are strongly scenario- and model-dependent, and improved projections would require improved understanding of sources of uncertainty and enhancements in systematic observation networks.” (Ref: CO_1016)

[1] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Interactions within the Environment Domain

GHG mitigation

  • “The best guidance today suggests limiting the increase in global mean surface temperature to less than 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and keeping the rate of change below 2° Celsius per decade. Recent probability analysis suggests that accomplishing the former with relatively high certainty will require keeping the equivalent CO2 concentration below 400 ppm. It also suggests that stabilizing the equivalent CO2 concentration at 450 ppm would imply a medium likelihood of staying below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. And if the equivalent CO2 concentration were to rise to 550 ppm, this outcome would be unlikely.” (Ref: CO_2019)

Pollution levels and emission standards

  • “A warmer climate will generally enhance the pollution load of nutrients in surface and groundwater. Higher temperatures will increase mineralisation and releases of nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon from soil organic matter and increase run-off and erosion, which will result in increased pollution transport.” (Ref: CO_2023)

Energy availability, production and consumption

  • “The projected change in river runoff due to climate change will result in an increase in hydropower production by about 5 % and more in northern Europe and a decrease by about 25 % or more in the south. Dam safety may be affected under changed climatic conditions with more frequent extreme flows and possibly natural hazards.” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “Climate change could have an adverse impact on thermal power production as most studies show that summer droughts will be more severe, hence limiting the availability of cooling water in terms of quantity, appropriate temperature and power plant efficiency.” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “In moderate climate zones the demand for energy during the winter months will decline. This may, for example, lead to a decrease in demand for oil and coal in electricity production, having implications for transport of fuels. In zones with higher temperatures, on the other hand, demand for electricity for cooling will increase during summer months.” (Ref: CO_0184)
  • “Future projections of climate change suggest reductions in heating degree days in Europe, but increases in cooling degree days. The net change in energy demand is difficult to predict, but there will be strong distributional patterns, with significantly reduced space-heating demand in northern Europe and increased space-cooling demand in southern Europe, with associated costs and benefits. There may also be increases in energy demand associated with adaptation to climate change, e.g. for water supply.” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “A further dimension of competition for energy resources lies in potential conflict over resources in Polar regions which will become exploitable as a consequence of global warming.” (Ref: CO_0120)

Scarce resources of fossil fuels

  • “(...) because much of the world's hydrocarbon reserves are in regions vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and because many oil and gas producing states already face significant social economic and demographic challenges, instability is likely to increase. This has the potential to feed back into greater energy insecurity and greater competition for resources. (...) As previously inaccessible regions open up due to the effects of climate change, the scramble for resources will intensify.” (Ref: CO_0120)

Interactions with the Social Domain

Population ageing

  • “Heat waves have caused significant mortality in Europe in recent decades. Several medical factors can increase the risk of heat-wave mortality, including dehydration, drugs, ageing, and having a chronic disease that affects cardiac output and skin blood flow, as well as being confined to bed. Increasing numbers of older adults in the population will increase the proportion of the population at risk.” (Ref: CO_2023)

Migration flows

  • “Probably the best available data on environmental migration are the figures on the number of persons displaced by natura disasters. In 2008, for example, 20 million people were displaced as a result of sudden-onset climate-related weather events, compared to 4.6 million internally displaced by conflict and violence.” (Ref: CO_5029)
  • “The UN predicts that there will be millions of "environmental" migrants by 2020 with climate change as one of the major drivers of this phenomenon. Some countries that are extremely vulnerable to climate change are already calling for international recognition of such environmentally-induced migration. Such migration may increase conflicts in transit and destination areas. Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure.” (Ref: CO_0120)
  • “Although the number of disasters has increased significantly over the last two decades (...) there has not been a major impact on international migratory flows, as much displacement is short-lived and temporary, and those who are displaced do not have the resources or networks to migrate abroad.” (Ref: CO_5029)
  • “Most commentators agree that migration resulting from environmental change is likely to continue to increase in the foreseeable future. The effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate this trend (...)” (Ref: CO_5029)
  • “(...) parts of the populations that already suffer from poor health conditions, unemployment or social exclusion are rendered more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which could amplify or trigger migration within and between countries.” (Ref: CO_0120)
  • “(...) it is not always appropriate to ascribe environmental changes, that might precipitate migration, to climate change. For example, environmental degradation may be the result of changes in average annual temperatures or rainfall levels, but it may equally be the result of deforestation or poor land management – or a combination of these factors.” (Ref: CO_5029)

Income structure and distribution

  • “In general, low-income households in both developed and developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change impacts primarily due to the scale and nature of the assets they possess or can draw on.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “Studies of disaster impacts from extreme weather events in urban areas suggest the majority of those who are killed or seriously injured and that lose most, or all, of their assets are from low-income groups. In the event of a natural disaster, low-income households often lack the resources to mitigate resulting damage through healthcare, structural repair, communication, food and water.” (Ref: CO_0147)

Gender roles

  • “Climate change impacts magnify gender and racial inequalities, often impacting poor minorities and poor women more than other groups. A vicious cycle then develops whereby marginalized groups bear the greatest burdens of climate change, thus preventing them from escaping poverty and leaving them continuously vulnerable to further change.” (Ref: CO_0147)

Urbanisation

  • “Evidence is mounting that climate change presents unique challenges for urban areas and their growing populations.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “Heatwaves or flash flooding, for example, will impact the comfort, cost and reliability of daily urban life.” (Ref: CO_5018)
  • “Extreme events are exacerbated in cities by the urban heat-island effect – the tendency of cities to retain heat more than their surrounding rural areas.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “Climate change may affect water supply, ecosystem goods and services, energy provision, industry and services in cities around the world. It can disrupt local economies and strip populations of their assets and livelihoods, in some cases leading to mass migration. Such impacts are unlikely to be evenly spread among regions and cities, across sectors of the economy or among socioeconomic groups.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “Coastal zones are the home of about one fifth of the world’s population, a number set to rise in the years ahead. Mega-cities, with their supporting infrastructure, such as port facilities and oil refineries, are often located by the sea or in river deltas. Sea-level rise and the increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters pose a serious threat to these regions and their economic prospects.” (Ref: CO_0120)

Planning

  • “Countries need to start adapting and planning to adapt, and to build resilience into natural and man-made systems.” (Ref: CO_0140)
  • “Urban authorities should (...) pay particular attention to the importance of adding climate-sensitive features to major infrastructure, especially when they are being designed, as the cost of adding these features will almost always be smaller before the infrastructure is built than they would after it is in place.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “In addition and just as important is the fundamental need for new visions for urban and regional planning policy that respond to these challenges. These visions must recognise that continued sprawl in the coastal regions of Europe is fundamentally unsustainable.” (Ref: CO_0028)
  • “Future climate change may mean that current plans for new areas of settlement are no longer appropriate, for instance due to a higher risk of flooding.” (Ref: CO_0096)
  • “The EuroHEAT project concluded that heat-related illnesses and deaths are largely preventable. In the long term, the most important measure is improving urban planning and architecture, and energy and transport policies.” (Ref: CO_2023)

Tourist flows

  • “Climate change may have several consequences for transport demand on a global and regional scale. The potential changes in patterns of tourism are of special interest.” (Ref: CO_0184)
  • “(...) during the summer months Northern parts of Europe become more attractive, while Southern parts become less attractive. Moreover, the length of the holiday season in Northern countries increases. We may therefore expect a decrease in tourism from North to South, and, especially during the summer months, an increase in tourism from South to North. However, during spring and winter the Southern countries become more attractive, which may increase tourism to this region in these periods.” (Ref: CO_0184)
  • “Next to tourism during the summer holidays, another substantial part of the tourism industry is related to skiing holidays. The impact of climate change in this respect is clear; the larger the increase in temperature, the smaller the probability of sufficient snow for skiing purposes. This may lead to a decrease in skiing holidays and to a shift towards those areas with higher probabilities of sufficient snow, e.g. areas at higher altitudes.” (Ref: CO_0184)
  • “Concerning the 2020s, in the three main seasons (i.e. spring, summer and autumn) climate conditions for outdoor tourism improve in most areas of Europe. Changes are most significant in the Mediterranean region, where the area with very good to ideal conditions increases. On the contrary, for the 2080s, the distribution of climatic conditions in Europe is projected to change significantly.” (Ref: CO_2027)
  • “Future projections of climate change suggest that the suitability of the Mediterranean for tourism will decline during the key summer months, though there will be an increase during other seasons (spring and autumn). This can produce shifts in the major flows of tourism within the EU, which will be very important in regions where tourism is a dominant economic sector, though adaptation responses such as economic diversification will be critical to limit economic losses. The tourism industry will therefore face significant adaptation costs.” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “Changes in climate are starting to impact upon the attractiveness of many of the Mediterranean's major resorts, while improving it in other regions.” (Ref: CO_2023)

Education

  • “For a long time, although the message was as clear as it could be, the audience remained unreceptive. But gradually the efforts to disseminate the warnings of science are beginning to pay off. The apathy and outright resistance are starting to crumble, and the climatologists’ message is getting through to many people.” (Ref: CO_0091)
  • “Information of climate change science and options for mitigation and adaptation responses should be more widely available. The IPCC, the United Nations and other international organizations need to widen the spectrum of available knowledge on climate change.” (Ref: CO_0147)

Health

  • “Climate change is already contributing to the global burden of disease and premature deaths. Human beings are exposed to climate change through changing weather patterns (temperature, precipitation, sea-level rise and more frequent extreme events) and indirectly through changes in the quality of water, air and food, and changes in ecosystems, agriculture, industry, settlements, and the economy. At this early stage the effects are small but they are projected to increase progressively in all countries and regions.” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “In the 2020s, without adaptation measures and acclimatisation, the estimated increases in heat-related mortality are projected to be lower than the estimated decrease in cold-related mortality. The potential increase in heat-related mortality in Europe could be over 25,000 extra deaths per year, with the rate of increase potentially higher in Central Europe South and Southern European regions. However, physiological and behavioural responses to the warmer climate would have a very significant effect in reducing this mortality (acclimatisation), potentially reducing the estimates by a factor of five to ten. It is also possible that there may be a decline in the sensitivity of mortality to cold, though this is more uncertain.” (Ref: CO_2027)

Interactions with the Economy Domain

GDP trends

  • “Economic losses due to climate change may increase in the future because of the projected increase in extreme events, although this is uncertain.” (Ref: CO_1027)
  • “The IPCC calculated the macroeconomic cost in 2030 at less than 3 per cent (of GDP) for stabilizing the CO2e[1] in the atmosphere between 445 and 535 ppm[2] and the 2008 UNDP[3] Human Development Report estimates that the cost of limiting temperature rise to 2°C could be less than 1.6 per cent of global GDP up till 2030. These estimates, whichever is more accurate, are significant.” (Ref: CO_0091)
  • “(...) the cost of keeping CO2 concentrations below a 550 ppm threshold is at around 1 per cent of global GDP by 2050. But if we do not act (...) the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5 per cent of global GDP each year, now and permanently. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20 per cent of GDP or more.” (Ref: CO_0091)
  • “Without public adaptation to climate change and if the climate of the 2080s occurred today, the annual damage of climate change to the EU economy in terms of GDP loss is estimated to be between 20 billion € for the 2.5°C scenario and 65 billion € for the 5.4°C scenario (Figure below). Damages would occur mainly in the Southern Europe and Central Europe North regions.” (Ref: CO_2027)

[1]    CO2 equivalence A way of expressing the combined efficiency of all greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and the rarer trace greenhouse gases such as chlorofluorocarbons. Their potency varies according to their chemical makeup and the length of time they persist in the atmosphere.

[2]    Stands for ‘parts per million’ and is the usual measuring unit applied to greenhouse gases because of their relatively small quantities in the atmosphere. 0,0001 per cent is 1 ppm.

[3]    Stands for ‘parts per million’ and is the usual measuring unit applied to greenhouse gases because of their relatively small quantities in the atmosphere. 0,0001 per cent is 1 ppm.

Figure 1‑58 Annual damage in terms of GDP loss (million €)

Source: PESETA Project (Ref: CO_2027)

  • “Predicting the future effects of extreme events also remains difficult because of increasing exposure caused by changes in economic development, which increases the value and density of human and physical capital. Disaster losses are expected to rise more rapidly than average economic growth, stressing the importance of risk reduction (Bouwer et al., 2007).” (Ref: CO_2023)

Regional differences in economics

  • “(...) impacts tend to reinforce existing inequalities and, as a result, climate change can disrupt the social fabric of cities and exacerbate poverty.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “The pressures from climate change are (...) not evenly distributed, and in some cases will be felt in regions with low GDP per capita, which thus have a lower capacity for adaptation to climate change.” (Ref: CO_0016)
  • “Globally, developing countries are expected to be among the most affected by climate change, and have the least socioeconomic capacity to adapt.” (Ref: CO_1027)

Availability of public and private resources and investments in the transport sector

  • “Climate change will impact a broad range of economic activities including trade, manufacturing, tourism and the insurance industry. The direct effects of climate change and extreme climate events on industry include damage to buildings, infrastructure and other assets. These effects are especially severe where industrial facilities are located in vulnerable areas such as coastal zones and floodplains. The indirect impacts of climate change on industry include those resulting from delays and cancellations due to climate impacts on transportation, communications and power infrastructure.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “The insurance industry is also vulnerable to climate change, particularly extreme climate events that impact a large area. Climate change could result in increasing demand or insurance while reducing insurability. The costs of insurance coverage are expected to increase significantly if infrequent but catastrophic events become more common in the future. The uncertainty surrounding the probability of high-loss events in the future is likely to place upward pressure on insurance premiums.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “Financial resources need to be made more available to support the many vulnerable cities that need additional resources to respond to climate change. In particular, it is essential that action is taken to facilitate the use of the Adaptation Fund and the CDM[1] for initiatives in urban areas.” (Ref: CO_0147)

[1] Clean Development Mechanism

Foreign trade, globalisation

  • “Results from a broad based research project into the effects of climate change on food production on a global scale show that especially countries at higher longitudes[1] will become more suited for food production (see Easterling et al., 2007). The climate in countries at lower longitudes, among which the largest part of developing countries, will become substantially less suited, however. This likely results in an increase in freight flows from developed to developing countries (see also Fischer et al., 1994, 2002). (...) The shift of food production from south to north will likely also hold at the regional level, e.g., from South- to North-Europe and from South America to North America.” (Ref: CO_0184)

[1] To be intended “latitude”

Energy availability and prices

Energy prices will be strongly influenced by demand variations and by fluctuations in energy production caused by climate change.

Intensified competition for scarce resources use

  • “Climate change will alter rainfall patterns and further reduce available freshwater by as much as 20 to 30% in certain regions. (...) Water shortage in particular has the potential to cause civil unrest and to lead to significant economic losses, even in robust economies. (...) The overall effect is that climate change will fuel existing conflicts over depleting resources, especially where access to those resources is politicised.” (Ref: CO_0120)
  • “More disputes over land and maritime borders and other territorial rights are likely. There might be a need to revisit existing rules of international law, particularly the Law of the Sea, as regards the resolution of territorial and border disputes.” (Ref: CO_0120)
  • “The rapid melting of the polar ice caps, in particular, the Arctic, is opening up new waterways and international trade routes. In addition, the increased accessibility of the enormous hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic region is changing the geo-strategic dynamics of the region with potential consequences for international stability and European security interests.” (Ref: CO_0120)

Interactions with the Technology Domain

No particularly relevant interrelationships have been found.

Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Disruptive events due to climate change will put increasing pressure on transport networks especially in urban areas or coastal zones

  • “To date, the consequences of climate change and weather conditions for the transport sector have received relatively little attention. Still, it is widely known that transport systems on the whole perform worse under adverse and extreme weather conditions. This is especially true in densely populated regions, such as many coastal areas around the globe, where one single event may lead to a chain of reactions that influence large parts of the transport system.” (Ref: CO_0184)
  • “(...) climate changes and the degrees to which they will occur are different for different regions. Given these differences in climate change it is obvious that impacts of climate change on the transport sector will also differ across regions.” (Ref: CO_5048)
  • “Most writing about climate change and transport emphasises the role of greenhouse gas emissions from transport as a contributory factor towards climate change. However, the inverse impact is also significant, since the transport system is liable to be adversely affected by climate change, particularly as a result of extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes and heat waves. One particular fear associated with such events is that it is not known what their scale will be and exactly what impacts they will have, though it is clear that there exists the potential for huge disruption.” (Ref: CO_5048)
  • “Climate change impacts frequently disrupt transportation systems through weather conditions that have immediate impacts on travel and damages that cause lasting service interruptions. In coastal cities in particular, sea-level rise can inundate highways and cause erosion of road bases and bridge supports. Heavy precipitation and its effects in the form of flooding and landslides can cause lasting damage to transportation infrastructure such as highways, seaports, bridges and airport runways. Higher temperatures, in particular long periods of drought and higher daily temperatures, compromise the integrity of paved roadways and necessitate more frequent repairs. Besides potentially endangering lives, the destruction or damage of transportation systems and prolonged service disruptions greatly impact nearly all aspects of urban life.” (Ref: CO_0147)
  • “Although attempts are now being made on a worldwide scale to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hence climate (...) such measures (even if successful) will be too late to avert climate change and its impacts over the next 50 years. It follows that the transport system needs to have resilience built into it in order to deal with these problems, in order to stop relatively minor events turning into major catastrophes. Two aspects of such resilience can be identified: A “long term” aspect in the sense that the transport system should be constructed and developed according to principles that recognise the likelihood and impacts of extreme weather events; Contingency plans need to be formulated well in advance of such events occurring. In particular, such plans should try to ensure network connectivity of the transport system in the face of any disruption. Firstly this will ensure that “normal activities” can be maintained (as far as possible), thus maintaining territorial cohesion. Secondly, problems of disconnection are likely to have a direct impact upon the effectiveness of emergency services for dealing with the disruption.” (Ref: CO_5048)
  • “Storm events can have large impacts on vulnerable systems such as transport, forestry and energy infrastructures, and also on human safety.” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “A higher flood risk increases the threat of loss of life and property as well as damage to sea‑dikes and infrastructure, and could lead to an increased loss of tourism, recreation and transportation functions (Nicholls and Tol, 2006; Nicholls et al.,2007; Devoy, 2008).” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “Changes in lake and river ice may affect winter transportation, bridge and pipeline crossings, and winter sports but no quantitative evidence for such effects yet exists (IPCC, 2007).” (Ref: CO_2023)
  • “It is clear that changes in weather conditions due to climate change will affect the competitive positions of the different transport modes, both within passenger and freight transport.” (Ref: CO_0184)

Road safety

  • “Adverse weather conditions, and especially rain and snow, increase the number of road accidents, but appear to decrease their severity.” (Ref: CO_0184)

Freight transport

  • “An obvious consequence of increasing temperatures is reduced ice cover on rivers and lakes in various regions across the globe, e.g., Great Lakes in Canada, rivers in Russia.(...) This may open up the possibility for sea transport on the Northwest Passage during at least several months per year. This route may provide opportunities for more efficient transport between North-America, Europe and Russia and Asia.” (Ref: CO_0184)
  • “Changes in temperature and precipitation also have consequences for water levels in rivers and thereby for the inland shipping sector. Specifically, low water levels in rivers may disrupt transport by water in river basins such as the Mississippi and the Rhine where many goods (bulk freight) are transported by barges. Low water levels will force inland waterway vessels to use only part of their maximum capacity, which may considerably increase transportation costs.” (Ref: CO_0184)
  • “Climate change and CO2 emissions are clearly becoming significant factors in logistical decision-making. Over 50% of companies involved in road freight transport operations are likely to see their activities affected by climate change concerns to a significant or large extent by 2015. This is expected to rise to over 80% by 2020.” (Ref: CO_6018)