Climate change is already evident in Europe. Across the continent, policy makers are starting to respond to current and future impacts and risks associated with rising temperatures, changing precipitation, melting glaciers, ice and snow, rising sea levels, and more frequent and intense floods and droughts.
To help respond to these challenges, the Climate-ADAPT website was developed by the European Commission and will be managed by the Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA). It is aimed at policy makers and 'practitioners' – engineers, planners and administrators – who can learn from the experience of others facing similar challenges and already carrying out adaptation actions elsewhere.
Climate-ADAPT is the most comprehensive website for information on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Europe. Adaptation means anticipating the effects of climate change and taking action to prevent or minimise damage or exploit opportunities. In many cases, early action will save money because the costs of failing to adapt are likely to be very high.
'Climate change is now a reality in Europe,' EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said. 'This new website collates the extensive sources of information and provides the knowledge base to inform people about adaptation. There are many opportunities for member countries, transnational and subnational regions and municipalities to learn from each other and already take relevant actions at this stage.'
To highlight the cross-cutting nature of adaptation to climate change, ClimateADAPT is related to other information systems the EEA manages in close collaboration with the Commission. These include the Biodiversity Information System for Europe, the Water Information System for Europe and the land use data centre.
Adaptation should happen in many different sectors. For example, this was stressed in a report published by the EEA in March, which stated that climate change is making water supply less predictable, so it is extremely important that agriculture, industry and the public all use water more efficiently for their mutual benefit.
More than 25 countries voluntarily submitted information on their national strategies and plans, assessments, climate services, and priority actions. The site features a continuously-updated database of adaptation strategies and actions at the transnational and country level. There are also case studies on initial adaptation actions at local and sub-national level.
In addition, the website includes potential future adaptation options, methodologies and maps, on impacts, vulnerabilities and risks from a range of EU research projects. It aims to support the European Commission’s comprehensive EU climate change adaptation strategy, due in 2013.
More information from the European Commission is available here.
Examples of adaptation across sectors in Europe
- The Arctic faces much larger temperature increases than the global average increase and a decrease in summer sea ice cover with risks for wildlife. There is a potential for increasing oil and gas exploration and shipping in the region, but the environmental impacts should be addressed. Arctic countries are considering adapting their fishing industry to northward moving fish species.
- In Northern Europe adaptation actions may address less snow and lake and river ice cover and increased winter and spring river flows. Adaptation plans focus on flood risk management, increased hydropower potential, enhanced forest growth, lower energy consumption for heating and possibly growing summer tourism.
- In North-western Europe risks of coastal flooding in densely populated low-lying coastal areas are increasing. These may be addressed by coastal defence systems and measures such as sand replenishment. Other adaptation actions include giving more space to rivers to address flood risks, revising building standards, changing management of nature protection areas and putting health action plans in place to cope with heat waves.
- Central and eastern Europe is addressing adaptation to temperature extremes together with reduced summer precipitation, increased risk of droughts, increasing energy demand in summer and increased intensity and frequency of river floods in winter and spring.
- Alpine countries are facing loss of glacier mass, reduced snow cover, thawing of permafrost and less precipitation falling as snow, leading to potential increases in the frequency and intensity of floods and rock falls. Priority sectors for adaptation actions include tourism (reduced skiing in winter), hydropower (lower water availability) and nature protection (addressing upward shifts in vegetation zones and related biodiversity loss).
- Southern European countries are addressing increasing risks of droughts and decreases in water availability combined with an increasing demand from agriculture, tourism and households. These countries also address in their plans lower agricultural crop yields, biodiversity loss, forest fires and heat waves affecting human health, lower water availability for hydropower and high summer temperatures affecting tourism.