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How Will Climate Change Affect Europe?

April 13, 2011

A top climate specialist with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Tuesday that despite variations in predictions of climate change trends, Europe should take action over the increase in droughts and floods across the union.

“There are some robust areas like Siberia, we know what the climate will be, another robust area is the Mediterranean, because the models tell the same story,” said Zbigniew Kundzewicz, review editor of IPCC’s chapter on freshwater resources.

“Climate change will pose two major water challenges in Europe: increasing water stress in southern Europe and increasing floods elsewhere,” he added during a workshop organized by the UN Economic Commission on Europe. “Current water management practices may be inadequate to reduce adverse impacts of climate change.”

Kundzewicz said southern Europe would be more affected by the climate changes than the northern regions, where warmer weather and longer dry spells leading to water shortages are occurring more frequently, bringing harm to agriculture, decreasing hydro-electric power by as much as 50 percent and increasing widespread water pollution.

But even so, the intensity of precipitation when it does occur is also growing with warming, raising the threat of abrupt summer flooding like those that hit eastern Europe in August 2002.

The Polish scientist also highlighted the growing impact of shifting land use. Urban areas are not able to absorb water as easily as rural areas during sudden rainfall. “One hundred year floods may become a 50-year or 20-year flood,” Kundzewicz explained to AFP.

He recognized that several climate change models were “not ready for prime time” because of the lack of clarity in the details regarding future carbon emissions.

“We can’t adapt to one fixed, crisp number, but we know a range and sometimes the range is disturbing,” Kundzewicz noted.

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