The State of the Climate in Europe report, produced jointly with the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, focused on 2021.
It provides information on rising temperatures, land and marine heatwaves, extreme weather, changing precipitation patterns, and retreating ice and snow.
The report says that between 1991 and 2021, temperatures in Europe warmed significantly, at an average rate of about +0.5 °C per decade. As a result, Alpine glaciers lost 30 metres in ice thickness from 1997 to 2021.
The Greenland ice sheet is melting and contributing to accelerating sea level rise. In summer 2021, Greenland saw a melt event and the first ever recorded rainfall at its highest point, Summit station.
In 2021, high impact weather and climate events led to hundreds of fatalities, directly affected more than half a million people and caused economic damages exceeding $50 billion. About 84 per cent of the events were floods or storms.
As the climate continues to change, European people’s health is expected to be impacted in many ways, including death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
Increases in zoonoses, where diseases are transmitted to humans from animals, are also expected along with food, water and vector-borne diseases, and a rising incidence of mental health disorders.
The deadliest extreme climate events in Europe come in the form of heatwaves, particularly in western and southern countries.
The combination of climate change, urbanization and population ageing in the region creates, and will further exacerbate, vulnerability to heat.
An unusually early and exceptionally intense heatwave has set new temperature records in Europe, posing a major threat to people’s health, agriculture and the environment.
However, the report indicates that it’s not all bad news. A number of countries in Europe have been very successful in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, in the European Union (EU) greenhouse gas emissions decreased 31 per cent between 1990 and 2020, with a net 55 per cent reduction target for 2030.
Europe is also one of the most advanced regions in cross-border cooperation in climate change adaptation, in particular across transnational river basins.
It is one of the world leaders in providing effective early warning systems, with about 75 per cent of people protected. Heat-health action plans have saved many lives from extreme heat.
Source: UN News