Aggregate potential impact of climate change, 2009


Observations for policy

The pattern of impact of climate change on Europe’s regions should be seen as evidence basis for adaptation needs: the higher the potential negative impacts, the more important are actions of adaptation in order to avoid negative consequences on the economy, population, physical assets, cultural heritage and the environment.

Policy context

Climate change is a major challenge. This has been acknowledged by a range of leading policy documents, including the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Territorial Agenda. It is also reflected in the proposed investment priorities for the CSF Funds 2014-2020. The overall thematic objectives have a clear focus on climate change adaptation and risk prevention. This is further elaborated within the investment priorities of specific funds. In 2009, the European Commission published a White Paper on climate change which underlines the link between climate change and territorial development in Europe.

To design appropriate policy responses of climate change, sound knowledge is needed about the regional differentiation. Therefore the ESPON Climate project have conducted an innovative, integrated and pan-European climate change impact assessment with a clear dimension.

Map interpretation

To impacts of climate change (will) vary across Europe and take different expressions in different regions. The map reveals that the projected impacts of climate change will most strongly affect southern European regions. Similarly, some coastal regions in north western Europe may experience high negative impacts as well.

In Southern Europe this is due to the drier and hotter climate which also increases the likelihood of forest fire occurrences. Severe impacts in northern Scandinavia are partially due to their very large protected areas where any climatic change is considered as negatively affecting the specific ecosystems under environmental protection.

Protected sea-level rise and increased flash floods will mainly impact on coastal regions in the North-West, such as the densely populated Dutch coast and Norway’s flash flood prone regions along the North Sea. The Alps, like many other mountainous regions, are also highly impacted because of their economic dependency on winter and/or summer tourism and the projected decrease in snow cover.

Many central, eastern and northern European regions face virtually no negative impacts or are even witnessing positive potential impacts of climate change. Moreover, some regions are projected to benefit from the impacts of climate change. This goes particularly for regions in North-Eastern Europe where the environmental conditions for agriculture tend to become improved, opening for new crops.

Concepts and methods

The potential impacts were calculated as a weighted combination of regional exposure to climate change and most recent data on the dimensions of physical, economic, social, environmental and cultural sensitivity to climate change.

The exposure to climate change is based on the difference between 1961-1990 and 2071-2100 climate projections of eight climatic variables of the CCLM model for the IPCC SRES A1B scenario as well as resulting inundation depth changes for a 100-year return flood event based on river flooding projections of the LISFLOOD model and coastal storm surge eight projections of the DIVA model adjusted with a 1m sea level rise.