Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

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13.1. The European Region 13.1.1. Previous Work

Western Europe was the subject of the first multi-country assessment of climate change impacts using general circulation model (GCM)-derived climate scenarios (Meinl and Bach, 1984). This included assessment of impacts on the agricultural, water, and energy sectors in the European Union (EU). Since that time, most assessments have been of single sectors or single countries. Most countries in Europe have now conducted climate impact studies, though these studies generally are based on expert reviews rather than new research. EU-wide assessments have been completed for water (Arnell et al., 1999), agriculture (Harrison et al., 1995a), forestry (Kellomäki, 1999), and coastal regions (European Commission, 1999).

The IPCC synthesis of regional impacts in its Special Report on Regional Impacts of Climate Change (RICC) captured some of the important likely effects—for example, on water resources, coastal regions, and agriculture—but drew no conclusions concerning effects on ecosystems, soils, forestry, insurance, and mountain regions (IPCC, 1998). The present survey refers to a much more extensive literature base (about three times as much as in RICC) and is able to cover additional fields and draw more specific conclusions. The main differences between the current assessment and the previous one are its coverage of the additional sectors noted above; the distinction it is able to draw between effects on different parts of Europe, particularly between northern and southern Europe; the greater degree of quantification achieved; and its evaluation of the adaptive capacity of different sectors to climate change impacts. This assessment draws substantially on the work of a 3-year review of impacts in Europe funded by the Commission of the European Communities, with extensive additional input of material for non-EU countries (Parry, 2000).

13.1.2. What is Different about the European Region? Geography, Population, Environment

Europe, a continent with an area of 10.5 million km2, extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Eastern Ural Mountains, the River Ural, and the Caspian Sea in the east and from the Arctic Sea in the north to the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea in the south.

Europe consists of large areas with low relief, including one of the world’s largest uninterrupted plains: the European Plain. There are several mountain ranges; the highest peak is 5,642 m (Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains). The continent is well-watered, with numerous permanent rivers, many of which flow outward from the central part of the continent.

There are five essential types of climate in Europe: maritime, transitional, continental, polar, and Mediterranean. The five major vegetation types are tundra, coniferous taiga (boreal forest), deciduous-mixed forest, steppe, and Mediterranean. A relatively large proportion of Europe is farmed, and about one-third of the area is arable; cereals are the predominant crop.

Europe has a total population of 720 million; it has a higher population density and lower birth rate than any other continent. In several countries of central and eastern Europe, population growth is negative at present, even as low as –1.2% (World Bank, 1999). High life expectancy and low infant mortality are results of advances in health care. Life expectancy at birth is among the highest in the world, in some countries reaching more than 75 years for men and more than 80 years for women (World Bank, 1999). European nations are aging faster than those of any other continent.

Key environmental pressures that are significant at the European scale are identified in the Dobris Report (Stanners and Bourdeau, 1995). They relate to areas such as biodiversity, landscape, soil and land degradation, forest degradation, natural hazards, water management, and recreational environment, among others. Most ecosystems in Europe are managed or semi-managed; they often are fragmented and under stress from pollution and other human impacts. Social concerns include issues such as competitiveness, employment, income, and social mobility (Parry, 2000). The relative importance of these issuses varies across Europe. Southern Europe, mountains, and coastal zones have their own sets of environmental concerns, some of which will be aggravated by climate change. Economy

The pattern of wealth distribution in the European region is strongly nonhomogeneous. Values of gross national product (GNP) per capita range from US$540 to 44,320 in Moldova and Switzerland, respectively (World Bank, 1999).

The 15 states that belong to the European Union (EU) are developed countries with stable economies and high levels of productivity. Their industry is based on modern high technology. The EU has reached a high degree of integration and common economic policy.

Until 1990, several countries in central and eastern Europe (CEE) had centrally planned economies dominated by heavy industry. Since late 1989, the CEE has undergone dramatic economic and political changes toward market economy and democracy. CEE countries labeled as “economies in transition” have been overhauling outdated, ineffective, energy- and raw material-consuming and highly polluting industries. This has been a difficult and long-term process; as a result, in 1990–1992, a large drop in GNP was noted in all CEE countries. Subsequently, some countries have managed to achieve solid growth. Poland, for instance, has now experienced nine consecutive years of growth, and its mean annual GNP rise for 1990–1997 is 3.9% (World Bank, 1999). Yet for some other countries, mean annual GNP growth for 1990–1997 has been negative. After the fall of the former political system in CEE, ties between these countries ceased to exist and new subregional links are being built, such as the Vysehrad Group created by Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary and the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). Yet the tendency for many countries of CEE now is to seek access to Western institutions. Three countries—the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland—joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in March 1999. Five countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia) have started negotiations that are expected to lead to full access to the EU in a few years. Among the macro-level pressures in some countries are within-country ethnic tensions and difficulties of transition toward a democratic system with a market economy.

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