Effects of global warming of 2°C in Europe

Controversial discussion, if the goal to limit the global warming to 2°C, can be achieved.

What does + 2°C global warming mean for Europe and world's most vulnerable regions?

IMPACT2C* is a multi-disciplinary international project. It uses a range of models to assess effects of +2oC global warming on pan-European scale and on different sectors, e.g. water, energy, infrastructure, coasts, tourism, forestry, agriculture, ecosystems services, and health and air quality-climate interactions. Furthermore, it includes case studies for some of the world's most vulnerable regions, such as Bangladesh, the Nile and Niger river basins as well as the Maldives.

The project's results indicate +2°C global warming will have major impacts on the environment, society and the economy across Europe.

Potentially important impacts are shown for the water cycle in Europe. These will affect water resources, and change flood and drought risks, though the changes differ across the continent.  Precipitation, evapotranspiration and runoff are projected to increase in Central and Northern Europe, but decrease in the Mediterranean region. There are also potential increases in flood risks across much of Europe, although droughts and very low level of soil moisture are projected to increase in the South, which already experiences water stress today.

Most new IPCC5 RCP (Representative Concentration Pathways) scenarios- with the exception of the RCP2.6 (green) - indicate we will hit 2°C warming before mid-century. If we continue in the direction of a high emission scenario (RCP8.5, red), 2°C will be reached around 2040 and even under a stabilisation scenario (RCP4.5, orange), 2°C will be reached before 2050. It is shown that Europe is warming at a higher level compared to the global average. Moreover, some parts of Europe will experience much higher levels of warming, with potentially +3°C of warming occurring in the Iberian Peninsula and other parts of the Mediterranean in the summer.

The key findings were on a whole very diverse and covered a range of sectors - some examples:

Water cycle
Potentially important impacts are shown for the water cycle in Europe. These will affect water resources, and change flood and drought risks, though the changes differ across the continent.  Precipitation, evapotranspiration and runoff are projected to increase in Central and Northern Europe, but decrease in the Mediterranean region. There are also potential increases in flood risks across much of Europe, although droughts and very low level of soil moisture are projected to increase in the South, which already experiences water stress today.

Agriculture and crop yields
The first results based on the simulations with EURO-CORDEX ensemble indicate that +2°C global warming will likely reduce yields of winter crops, e.g. winter wheat yields will decrease by more than 0.5 t/ha in many western and central-European regions. Summer crops would be on a whole negatively affected in the Mediterranean region, but, in general, they will experience greater yields at higher latitudes. Yields of summer crops are likely to increase by more than 70% at North latitudes (above 55°N), even though the absolute yield may still be quite low. 

Tourism
Among the four 'big players' in European skiing tourism - Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland - France shows the lowest increase in risk of losses in winter overnight stays. The highest weather-induced risk of losses in winter overnight stays - in the reference period (1971-2000) as well as for the +2°C global warming - is found in Austria, followed by Italy. Even if surface temperatures stabilize and achieve the + 2°C global limit, sea-level rise will continue over the century.
One of the IMPACT2C research questions therefore is: how will the Maldives cope with rising sea-levels? Initial results indicate that relative sea-level rise from the tide gauge (extracted from the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level, 2014) nearby Malé has been approximately 4mm/yr since 1990 - faster than the global average.

The project has now entered its crucial final phase, working on how to best present the results to inform wide audiences, including vital sectors and policy makers. A series of Policy Briefing Notes are being produced and are framed around a series of questions concerning the international goal to limit global warming to + 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels. The first two Issues are available here.

text, eskp.de CC BY;photographs and graphics, if there are no conflicts with other licences as well: eskp.de CC BY

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