Limiting global warming to 2C from pre-industrial times – the threshold widely agreed by scientists as the target for climate change mitigation efforts – will not be enough to prevent widespread and substantial changes across Europe, according to a new study.
Scientists consider the 2C limit as an appropriate and – if drastic measures are taken – achievable target, saying that curbing climate change to such an extent would prevent some of its most devastating impacts.
Published on Sunday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) comprehensive report on the mitigation of climate change warns that without mitigation, global temperatures could increase by as much as 3.7C to 4.8C from pre-industrial times by the end of the century.
The IPCC’s preceding report, on the likely impacts of climate change, warned that no nation would be spared from potential devastating impacts in such a scenario.
However, in a new study scientists suggest that even if the difficult 2C target is achieved, Europeans will see significant changes in their regional and local climate.
Temperatures across the continent would rise by more than the global average, with northern and eastern Europe likely to experience winters 3C warmer than usual, for example.
Rainfall patterns would also be affected, with “a robust increase of precipitation” expected in most countries – particularly in winter months – while central and southern Europe would experience drier summers.
The study concedes that there may be some positive effects from such trends, such as reduced demand for heating in northern winters.
However, it concludes that on the whole, “the distributional patterns of change across Europe are likely to drive geographically speciﬁc negative impacts.”
These impacts will include higher mortality rates from heatwaves and warm weather in southern Europe, water shortages in the Mediterranean and increased risk of flooding in the east.
Perhaps most worrying, the researchers warn that these changes are only a few decades away at most.
Co-author Dr Stefan Sobolowski said, “To put this in perspective, this will be about the time that my daughter reaches adulthood.”
Photo: astrangelyisolatedplace via flickr